|Friday, July 18|
|Saturday, July 19|
|8:00||Monterrey||-||Leones Negros||Univision Deportes|
|Sunday, July 20|
All times p.m. ET
Queretaro - Pumas
Pumas was much improved during the Clausura but exited the Liguilla in the first round. The team swapped forwards with Leon in the offseason with proven forward - and Clausura Golden Boot runner-up - Martin Bravo headed to the champion while 25-year-old Matias Britos heads for the capital club. Efraín Velarde also left the club during the offseason, so it won't be easy to replicate last season's form.
The hosts in the curtain raiser, the Gallos Blancos of Queretaro, saw a good deal of turnover during the offseason. They're taking chances on some veterans, including 38-year-old Sinha, 34-year-old Ricardo Osorio and American defender Jonathan Bornstein.
Tijuana - Puebla
Xolos had an average campaign in the Clausura, clawing their way into the postseason before being dismissed by Toluca. This offseason brought many changes with mainstays Fernando Arce, Edgar Castillo and Fidel Martinez among those leaving the club. American Greg Garza had been groomed as Castillo's replacement for several tournaments, and Arce will be replaced by Venezuelan international Juan Arango.
Scoring could remain a problem, though forwards Alfredo Moreno and Danyo Moreno have returned to the cub. Puebla will try to keep its head above water and avoid relegation this campaign. DaMarcus Beasley's future is uncertain, and the club has retooled, bringing in a number of players with the headline-grabber being Mexican legend Cuauhtemoc Blanco. Whether Blanco has the legs to score at 41 and whether a defense that will be led by American Michael Orozco can cope are questions that Ruben Romano's side must answer in the affirmative if it's going to survive.
Cruz Azul - Pachuca
"Always a bridesmaid, never the bride," goes the old saying, and Cruz Azul certainly fits the bill as far as recent Liga MX form is concerned. It was able to lift the CONCACAF Champions League last year but couldn't leverage its dominant squad into domestic success in the Liguilla, losing in the first round.
The squad is again an attractive one, with Marco Fabian returning and Maza Rodriguez the big addition on the back line, but regular-season success is unlikely to placate the Estadio Azul faithful. Pachuca seems likely to sell Enner Valencia to West Ham, meaning much-heralded Mexican forward Jurgen Damm will have to work to fill the void left by last tournament's leading scorer. The eternal "El Conejo" Perez says he's ready for another season after more than 600 career appearances, but the 41-year-old was rested in preseason as Alfonso Blanco was between the posts.
Veracruz - Santos
When evaluating Santos, one has to start with the departure of hometown hero Oribe Peralta to Club America. Other than that, last year's mostly successful side returns with young Cape Verde international forward Djaniny brought in up top. Carlos Darwin Quintero has the skill to keep the Guerreros attack humming and Argentine Carlos Izquierdoz should help the back line.
Los Tiburones Rojos were the worst team in the Clausura and while they made some additions - notably Wilson Tiago joining from Toluca and Daniel Villalva coming from real plate - it's tough to see them qualifying for a Liguilla spot after saying goodbye to Angel Reyna and Alfredo Moreno. An upset against Santos could change some minds, though.
Monterrey - Leones Negros
The newly promoted Leones Negros (formally known as Universidad de Guadalajara) want to be known for more than just cool uniforms and aggressively went after new additions. They picked up Fidel Martinez, an Ecuadorian attacker who played with Tijuana, forward William Ferreira from Bolivar and midfielder Diego Campos. The newcomers also hit the loan market, acquiring Hector Reynonoso via that mechanism. Goalkeeper Humberto Hernandez is expected to be the starter, but is questionable for week one.
Los Rayados made a late charge but missed the Liguilla last campaign. Forward Dorlan Pablon is back, and the club hopes he sticks around for more than a few weeks this time. Defensive reinforcements have arrived in the form of Efrain Velarde and Colombian Stefan Medina. Manager Carlos Barra will hope those additions team up well with his squad and help return the club to former glories. A win against the Liga MX new boys would be a good start.
Leon - America
The weekend's marquee fixture pits the reigning champion against the last non-Leon team to win a title. Despite rumors of European clubs coming in, both clubs have held onto their key elements with Raul Jimenez and Miguel Layun set to wait until winter to make a move and Carlos Pena and Rafa Marquez sticking around Camp Nou for another year. Of course, America added Oribe Peralta from Santos up top but lost Juan Carlos Medina to Atlas and Maza Rodriguez to Cruz Azul.
Las Aguilas brought in veteran Lanus center back Paolo Goltz and also have Phoenix-born Ventura Alvarado pushing the veterans for a spot. Leon acquired veteran forward Martin Bravo from Pumas in exchange for a younger forward and seem primed to make a run for a third-straight tournament.
Atlas - Tigres
Tomas Boy improved Atlas last season by just enough to see the club to safety and now will be looking to improve on that and return los Zorros to postseason play. Proven midfielders Juan Carlos Medina and Aldo Leao were brought in this summer as was American defender Edgar Castillo.
They'll be up against a Tigres side which spent much of the last tournament at the foot of the table before displaying better form as the season drew to a close. American forward Herculez Gomez has joined countryman Jose Torres at the club, which will also hope it can retain young Mexican star Alan Pulido, who like returning Uruaguyan Egidio Arevalo represented his country at this summer's World Cup.
Toluca - Morelia
Toluca pushed Cruz Azul to the brink but couldn't win the CONCACAF Champions League last season and also couldn't fend of Leon in the Liguilla. This summer, the Red Devils let two veteran midfielders go but still have a squad that should once again contend for a top finish, especially with Lucas Lobos stepping into the center of the park.
Morelia had one of the most disappointing campaigns in the region last year, falling early in the Copa Libertadores and missing the Liguilla after having been billed as an exciting, upstart side. It went outside the region to procure new players, but Angel Comizzo needs his experienced back line to perform better if Monarcas are set to fly back up the table. One member, Felipe Beloy, will miss the opener because of yellow cards accrued last tournament. Toluca will be able to provide an early test in the Estadio Nemesio Diez.
Chivas - Chiapas
One of Mexico's most famous and successful clubs continued to lose relevence as Chivas again missed the Liguilla. Of course, the club's strict Mexican-only policy means the talent it can bring in is restricted, and Carlos Bustos has elected to go with experience. Carlos Salcido returns to the club after stops in Europe and at Tigres, Fernando Arce comes in from Tijuana and Angel Reyna is back from his loan away to Veracruz. Aldo de Nigris will likely have to have a better follow-up to his previous campaigns for the Guadalajara club to make much headway.
Meanwhile, Jaguares were a surprise in the Clausura, nearly slipping into the postseason but missing out on a tiebreaker. The club was among the most active in the offseason, seeking to move into the Liguilla places and are banking on new additions Chilean Isaac Diaz, Christian "El Hobbit" Bermudez and Emiliano Armenteros to take it to the next level.