A new era begins this season in Argentina with the advent of the Superliga. Replacing the old Primera Division, the revamped format comes with new television channels, new broadcasting rights but the same stars of the future that one day might be coming to a European side near you.
The action kicks off on Friday, while local heavyweights Boca Juniors and River Plate begin their campaigns on Sunday in a packed opening weekend.
Below you will find everything you need to know about the Superliga, as well as how to watch your favourite Argentine teams stateside.
WHAT IS THE SUPERLIGA?
The Superliga was born out of an agreement between the elite clubs in Argentina and the Argentine Football Association (AFA) to relaunch the top flight. The role models used in the new format were the English Premier League and Spain's La Liga, with the added ingredient of some suspect Photoshop editing to promote the venture:
Without a doubt, the most visible change comes in the amount and sharing of television funds. US broadcasting giants Turner and Fox are onboard to transmit games across Argentina and paid out an initial sum of 1.5 billion pesos (roughly US$85.7m) to secure the rights, as well as a promised investment of 3.2bn pesos (US$183m) for each season it holds the contract.
While certainly a significant leap from previous television agreements - which were owned by the national government - the Superliga remains well behind Europe's top leagues. The Premier League rakes in a mammoth US$4.5bn a season from TV rights, with the Bundesliga coming a distant second at US$1.5bn a season.
The share of television income, meanwhile, is determined through three groups. River Plate and Boca Juniors make up Group 1 as the country's most popular sides and take a larger share of the pie; behind come Racing Club, Independiente, San Lorenzo and Velez Sarsfield in Group 2, while the rest of the Superliga makes up the final Group 3 and receives a lesser percentage.
WHERE TO WATCH THE SUPERLIGA
|Argentine TV channel||Online stream|
|Fox Sports/ TNT Sports||Fox Play Latin America|
Fans in Argentina lose free-to-air football after eight years of all matches being screened on open channels. From August all matches will be available on cable via Fox Sports and TNT, while from September 30 viewers will have to pay a further monthly fee of 300 pesos (US17) to access the service.
|US TV channel||Online stream|
|TNT Sports/ TyC Sports Internacional||TBC|
Viewers in the US will be able to watch games transmitted via TNT Sports, which will appear on DirecTV services, while TyC Sports Internacional will also continue with broadcasting rights.
WHEN IS THE SUPERCLASICO?
There will be just one competitive Superclasico in 2017-18, due to the decision to scrap the 'round of derbies' that had been used in previous seasons. River will host the fixture at the Monumental against arch-rivals Boca, with the game scheduled for November 5.
The last Superclasico at the Monumental finished 4-2 in Boca's favour thanks to two goals from Carlos Tevez. River, however, gained revenge at the Bombonera, winning 3-1 in their rivals' backyard in May 2017.
HOW MANY TEAMS WILL GO DOWN?
Bear with us, because here it begins to get a little complicated!
The Superliga kicks off with an inflated division of 28 teams, a legacy of Julio Grondona's wish to expand the top flight that came in following the long-time AFA president's death in 2014. The new AFA administration plans to reduce this number down to 22 by 2020, meaning that for the next three seasons four teams will be relegated while only two will go up from the Nacional B.
Argentina, however, calculates relegation a little differently to the European norm. The drop zone is determined by average points over a three-year period, with the number of points taken in that time divided by the amount of top-flight games each team has played.
In practice this means that San Lorenzo, top of the average table with 148 points in the bank, know that relegation is almost impossible even with a truly catastrophic season. At the other end of the scale Arsenal, bottom of the pile with just 84 accumulated points (an average of 1.065 a game) must perform extraordinarily in order to avoid the drop, with the pressure mounting before a ball has even been kicked.
The two promoted teams Argentinos Juniors and Chacarita Juniors begin with an average of zero, and will aim to pick up at least 30 points to stay clear of the danger zone.
Thankfully at the top of the table things are a little simpler. The champion will be crowned on points won after the shortened 27-game season, and joined by the following three best-placed teams in entering the Copa Libertadores group stage for 2019.
Fifth place will also enter the Libertadores in its preliminary phase, while sixth to 11th take a place in the Copa Sudamericana competition.
OPENING WEEKEND FIXTURES
|Date||Home||Away||Kick-off time (ET)|
|26/Aug||Defensa y Justicia||Gimnasia||13:05|
|27/Aug||San Martin (SJ)||Patronato||10:05|
|27/Aug||Atl Tucuman||Godoy Cruz||13:05|
Argentinos' clash against Chacarita has been postponed due to the late finish of last season's Nacional B division.
The name may have changed, but the teams at the top of the table are likely to remain the same. Boca and River headed last season's Primera challenge for almost the entire campaign, with the Xeneize pulling away, and they start the new Superliga as favourites having reinforced heavily over the transfer window.
Boca are strengthened by the arrival of Colombia playmaker Edwin Cardona, while River boast former Valencia midfielder Enzo Perez and ex-Newell's hitman Ignacio Scocco amongst their new signings. The Millonario, however, were hit by the exit of Sebastian Driussi, who joined the Argentine revolution at Roberto Mancini's Zenit St. Petersburg, and question marks remain over the future of Lucas Alario who has received a lucrative bid from Bayer Leverkusen.
Elsewhere in the top flight, Independiente and Racing emerge as outside bets. The latter pulled off a transfer coup of sorts by keeping wonderkid Lautaro Martinez in Avellaneda, while the Rojo boast their own star youngster in Ezequiel Barco, although Emiliano Rigoni's departure for (you guessed it) Zenit comes as a blow.
Atletico Tucuman are another dark horse. The Decano sprung a shock on Independiente midweek in the Copa Sudamericana and in Luis Rodriguez, their veteran playmaker who resembles Messi after one too many barbecues, they have one of the most lovable and potent figures in the entire league. Elsewhere, the likes of Lanus, Rosario Central and Estudiantes will look to mount their own challenges, and with just 27 games this season a strong start to proceedings will put any team in contention for glory come the end of the inaugural Superliga in May 2018.