Liga MX: Why does Mexican soccer league split into Apertura & Clausura seasons?

Goal explains why there is a need to split the Liga MX into two campaigns, and why Mexico's premier competition names two winners instead of just one

You may not be too familiar with the way that Mexico's top level splits itself into two seasons: the Apertura and Clausura.

Deviating from traditional European football seasons that oversee just a single campaign that stretches over the better part of the year, Liga MX has a completely different structure and crowns not one winner, but two.

So how exactly does Liga MX work, and why does it split itself into two seasons? Goal takes a look.

What is the format of Liga MX?

To the typical European football fan who enjoys a straightforward season campaign that has a solid start and finish date, the competition format of the Liga MX may be confusing.

The Mexican league has two tournaments – the Apertura and Clausura – per year, and each comes with its own playoff system, known as la liguilla. At present each of the 18 teams in each tournament plays 17 matches, one against every other club in the league. Over the course of the two tournaments the host team is flipped so that every team plays home and away against every other team. 

The eight teams at the top of the table at the end of the tournament's regular phase qualify to la liguilla.

Each tournament crows a champion, with the winners facing off in the Campeon de Campeones in July.

Relegation from the top flight is still in play in Liga MX, though it is severely limited by league rules. Few of the lower-league sides meet the lofty standards required to play in Liga MX. 

Why does Liga MX split into two seasons?

Toluca Liga MX 2018

Since the 1996 season, Mexico has used the split-season system that confirms two winners – but in different formats. Initially, Liga MX played a separate winter and summer tournament, but the league now observes the Apertura (which translates to 'opening' in Spanish) - season from July to December and Clausura (closing) season, from January to May.

The opening tournament being played at the end of the calendar year and the closing tournament at the start of the year keep Liga MX in line with the FIFA calendar. 

The draw of the shorter tournaments is that more is left riding on each match, in theory creating more excitement and buzz, which leads to larger audiences and, in the long run, more money. 

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What other tournaments are spit into two seasons?

The two-season format is popular across many Central and South American countries, with Mexico far from the only one to adopt a split league. Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica and Paraguay are all nations who either do or have observed a split-season format, though how the competitions are carried out may differ from country to country.

Argentina no longer uses two seasons with the Primera Division having switched to a single-table format. The two-season format was also used by two of Asia's biggest leagues, with both Japan and Korea having used it at various times, though the format is not currently being used by the top flight in either country. 

The split-league has also been used in baseball, though primarily in minor league systems.