Manuel Veth –
Liga MX does many things different from the rest of the football world. Be it three digit shirt numbers, or the fact that Liga MX seasons are split into two full seasons—the Apertura and Clausura—which means that Liga MX has playoffs twice a season. But it is not just in the championship race that Liga MX does things differently, for there are also special Liga MX relegation rules.
Liga MX relegation is determined not through a single season, but by using the point average of the last three full seasons. It is the sort of system that allows the big clubs to stay in the league, even if they have one bad season, and makes it more difficult for the smaller teams to stay in the league.
It also means that, most years, one needs a doctorate in mathematics to calculate which club will go down and which club will stay up. This year, however, is a bit of an exception.
Liga MX relegation race is made easy by Necaxa’s performance
Newly promoted Necaxa, against expectations, had a solid Apertura with 26 points, which meant that they made the Liguilla and, together with their 14 points in the Clausura, they managed to collect 40 points—a point average of 1.2903 in their first full season in the top flight.
As a result, Necaxa was never threatened with relegation this season. Instead, it is Puebla, Morelia, Chiapas, and Veracruz that are fighting against finishing last in the three-year accumulation period. All four clubs have been in the league over the last three full seasons, which means that they have all played the same number of games, which in turn means that the relegation battle is relatively easy to follow this season.
Lets break it down. Puebla is the safest of the four teams that, mathematically, could still be eliminated this season. Puebla have collected 118 points (1.1919 on average) over the last three full seasons and are, therefore, seven points ahead of last placed Veracruz, who have collected 111 points (1.1212 on average) over the last three full seasons. With just three games left to play, Puebla could, therefore, achieve safety on matchday 15 of the Liga MX 2016-17 Clausura.
Things are, however, a bit more complicated for the two clubs sandwiched between Puebla and Veracruz. Morelia and Chiapas have collected 112 points over the last three full seasons. Morelia, in fact, entered the Clausura in last place, and were widely considered the favourites to go down.
The Monarcas, however, have collected 18 points in the Clausura, which puts them within two points of a Liguilla spot. Morelia, in fact, had a decent second half to the season, and making the playoffs might be their best chance when it comes to the relegation battle, especially as Veracruz, who had an abysmal start to the Clausura, have started to pick up points—the club picked up two wins in their last four games.
Liga MX relegation battle who will survive?
With Morelia and Veracruz picking up form, the team that could be in the greatest danger of being demoted at the end of the season is Chiapas. The Los Jaguares are currently second last, one point ahead of Puebla, in the Liga MX Clausura standings.
In terms of schedule, Veracruz and Chiapas have the most difficult schedules. Veracruz next face Pumas, who have somewhat lost their form but are still in playoff contention, and then face Monterrey and Tijuana. Chiapas still have to play Querétaro, Santos Laguna, and Atlas, who are all still theoretically fighting for a spot in the playoffs. Morelia, in the meantime, will be looking for their very own Liguilla qualification, while at the same time also looking down towards the drop zone. Their schedule will see them first visit Necaxa, before hosting Pumas, who could be out of the playoff race at that point, and then Monterrey.
All three clubs have difficult schedules to wrap up the season, but Morelia have been the most consistent of all the teams in the drop zone when it comes to collecting points. The fact that Morelia still have to play for something, playoffs, and not just against dropping down to the Ascenso MX, could also give them a psychological advantage.
At the same time, the Liga MX is anything but predictable this season, and with just three games to go, the relegation battle is just as exciting as the race for the playoff spots.
Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist, and podcaster for WorldFootballIndex.com. He is also a holder of a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States”, which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @homosovieticus.