Liga de Ascenso MX (the Promotion League, Mexico’s second-tier league) wrapped up its regular season last weekend and the first stage of playoffs, or Liguilla, are already underway.
Ascenso MX has 15 teams that play each other once in each half-season torneo. After the 14th round of regular season fixtures ended on Sunday, November 10, Alebrijes de Oaxaca sat on top of the table due to goal differential over second-placed Necaxa. Oaxaca is a newly formed franchise, created in December 2012 by the owners of a team from Tecamachalco that won promotion from the Segunda División but didn’t have the proper infrastructure in place to participate in the higher league. (This is largely unrelated to the mess described below that unfolded at the end May of 2013.)
Alebrijes de Oaxaca won a bye to the second stage of the playoffs as only 7 of the 15 teams competing in the Liga Ascenso qualify for the Liguilla. To start the Apertura 2013 (the half-season tournament from July until November) two teams were promoted from the Segunda División (which is actually the third-tier league in Mexico) because the owners of the team that was supposed to be relegated from Liga MX, Querétaro F.C., decided to dissolve the existing team and trigger a series of franchise transfers that shook Mexican soccer.
I hope that I’ve condensed those franchise transfers into consumable portions:
This move was part of a carousel of team owners that made a mockery of the promotion-relegation system in Mexico. The C.F. Jaguares de Chiapas franchise was moved to Querétaro to become Querétaro F.C., replacing the team from Querétaro that had been relegated to the Liga de Ascenso. San Luis F.C., another team in Liga MX, moved its franchise to Chiapas to replace the club that was sold to Querétaro and took up the name Chiapas F.C.
The team that had won promotion to Liga MX at the end of the 2012-13 season, La Piedad, dissolved and moved to Veracruz to form the Liga MX club Tiburones Rojos de Vercruz. The second tier club that was already in Veracruz then moved to San Luis Potosí to form Atlético San Luis, effectively relegating the team that fans in San Luis cheered for.
In other chicanery, Toros Neza, an Ascenso MX team that had won a short-season tournament and narrowly lost out to La Piedad in the 2013 promotion playoff final was bought by a group in the state of Campeche and re-named Delfines del Carmen. The club Irapuato FC was also moved to Zacatepec, Morelos and named Zacatepec 1948.
All in all, La Piedad left Ascenso MX while Ballenas Galeana (the original promoted team) and Alebrijes de Oaxaca joined the second-tier league.
Anyway, the Whales from the state of Morelos did not fare as well as Oaxaca and finished in 14th place in the 15-team league.
The playoff series were set as second placed Club Necaxa is playing seventh placed Atlético San Luis, third placed Delfines F.C. face off against sixth placed Correcaminos UAT, and fourth placed Mérida F.C. play Leones Negros of the University of Guadalajara who sat in fifth place.
The first leg of the quarterfinal series was on Wednesday 13 November: Necaxa won 2-0 on the road at San Luis, Delfines tied 1-1 with Correcaminos, and Leones Negros stomped Mérida 5-0 at home.
The return legs will be on Saturday 16 November, with the aggregate winners advancing to the semifinals. Alebrijes de Oaxaca will wait to play the lowest seeded winner when the semifinals are played November 19 and 23. The Apertura 2013 Liguilla finals will then be played on November 26 and 30.
The winner of the Apertura 2013 will then face the winner of the spring’s Clausura 2014 in the promotion play-off at the end of the season. If the same team wins both torneos, then that team earns an automatic promotion into Liga MX. Hopefully the promotion-relegation at the end of this season is more straightforward than that of last year.