Tom Marshall: Time to change the Liga MX relegation system?

With a couple changes to the system, promotion and relegation could be much more exciting in Mexico
Barring a minor miracle, Queretaro is going to be playing its soccer in Mexico’s Ascenso MX next season. That is despite the team playing a good Clausura championship and fighting for a place in the playoffs.

Currently, the relegation system used in the Liga MX is similar to that in Argentina. In both leagues, the average points per game over the past three years (six seasons) are taken into account. But in Argentina three teams go down every year – two based on the average over three years plus the worst team over the last two seasons – while in Mexico it is only one side.

In fairness, Gallos Blancos were terrible in the past Apertura tournament, winning just seven points in 17 matches, but if relegation was over the past two seasons (one year), San Luis and Queretaro would be level on 25 points, with Atlante on 27 points and Puebla on 28 points.

In essence, right now the relegation battle would be a lot more exciting, simpler for newcomers to the Mexican league to understand and make more sense if the worst team (or teams, but we’ll get to that) of the two seasons go down. Period. As the numbers in the previous paragraph also highlight, the interest in the issue right now would be sky high, instead of the general assumption for most of this season that Queretaro would be relegated.

And as for the “big” teams dropping down a division, if they aren’t good enough, then why should they deserve to be in the league? There’s also nothing wrong with them fighting relegation and it would raise interest. When River Plate was on the brink in Argentina, it became a major international sports story and after one year in the more humble Argentine second division, it is back now fighting for the championship. More of things like that in Mexico would actually be a positive.

Whether you think the relegation system – designed largely to keep big, money-spinning teams in the league – is good or not, the fact only one team goes down should be reconsidered.  

Opening it up to two or three teams would provide more storylines in the Liga MX and more general interest in the second division.

At present in Mexico, the Ascenso MX is an afterthought, a place where Cuauhtemoc Blanco plays, and the league only comes to the fore during the annual playoff between the champions of each season to decide who goes up into the Liga MX.

It should and could have a higher profile, with teams like Veracruz, Celaya, Necaxa and Universidad de Guadalajara all having the historical pedigree to be in the top division. The last two teams to come up – Tijuana and Leon – have provided the league with plenty of quality, have been a breath of fresh air in their different approaches and are excellent barometers as to the quality in the second division.

The bottom line is that Mexico is a big country, soccer is the number one sport by a long way and the infrastructure is in place for two or more fully competitive leagues with a fluid relegation system between them. The likely result would be an increase in the quality of the football in the country as a whole.

The big obstacle is that the people who could implement the changes are the Liga MX team owners, who also happen to have rather good reasons not to want more teams going down.

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