Like much of Latin America, Mexican football’s origins stem back to the early twentieth century and English travellers introducing the game, and like in many other countries it has exploded into a national obsession.
It was in 1902 that a small amateur league had been created and the heavy English influence was evident as most the sides were founded by English immigrant miners. Pachuca are cited as being the first club in Mexico, when a group of Cornish miners working for Compañía Real del Monte y Pachuca founded the Pachuca Athletic Club in 1901. Other similar clubs quickly formed and small, regional amateur divisions were founded.
In the following years several of the more recognisable teams were formed, Guadalajara and Club America, for example, but for the time being the game was still amateur. It wasn’t until 1943 that a professional national league was formed, made up mainly from the sides playing in the Primera Fuerza, the league local to Mexico City. Despite a number of teams appealing to the FMF (Federación Mexicana de Fútbol Asociación) 10 teams were chosen to make up the new Liga Mayor. From the Primera Fuerza: Club America, Asturias, Atlante, Real España and Marte; from the Liga Occidental De Jalisco: Atlas and Guadalajara and from the Liga Amateur de Veracruz: Orizaba, Veracruz and Moctezuma.
The real boom in Mexican football came in 1970 when Mexico hosted the World Cup and played host to the great Brasilian side led by Pele, who went on to claim the trophy. With the renewed interest and passion for football, the FMF made changes to the national league system and made it more recognisable to the format we have today. The introduction of the liguilla or playoff to determine the champion is one which is common across Latin America and despite some changes to this over the years it is still used today.
18 sides make up the Liga MX and there are two championships every year: the Apertura and the Clausura. In each tournament, the teams play each once in a regular season and after these 17 matches the top 8 sides go into the liguilla. The format then changes to a knockout competition with teams playing two legs, home and away to progress. So there are two national champions each year from the two separate tournaments.
Relegation is also similar to other Latin American countries in that it is determined over a 3 season average. One side at the end of every season is relegated and is replaced by the winner from the Ascenso MX playoff.
| Liga MX
18 clubs – 1 relegation
16 clubs – 1 promotion, 1 relegation
|3||Segunda División de México – Liga Premier de Ascenso
32 clubs (in two groups) – 1 promotion, 1 relegation
|Segunda División de México – Liga de Nuevos Talentos
26 clubs (in two groups) – 1 relegation
|Tercera División de México
214 clubs (in 14 groups) – 2 promotion