Three Digit Shirt Numbers – A Mexican Phenomena

Three Digit Shirt Numbers – A Mexican Phenomena

Manuel Veth –

Three digit shirt numbers is one of the most glaring examples that sets the Liga MX apart from the big European leagues in Europe and South America. Even in the ever-changing rule landscape of Major League Soccer, three digit shirt numbers have not been dreamed up yet.

Liga MX, however, is different, and we at the Futbolgrad Network very much mean this in a good way. No other league on the continent combines glitz, drama, and weirdness to a melange of football goodness like the Liga MX.

One example was the two legged Liga MX Apertura final between Monterrey- based Tigres UANL, and América from Mexico City. By the way, have we mentioned yet that Liga MX crowns two champions a season? Because they do, and they do it by playing a full playoff stage at the end of the half season and, to top it off, the final was played on December 22, and, wait for it, on December 25!

The recent Apertura final was a great example of how Liga MX is different

Anyhow, we digress. The final between the most powerful clubs in Mexican football produced all the drama that you would expect from Mexican football.

Following a 1-1 draw in the first leg at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, the stage was set for a great final at Tigres’ Estadio Universitario. Those who have not seen the final yet should head to YouTube and watch it—the game had everything.

Overall, five players were sent off, four of them in extra time. Both sides were actually down to ten men early on, and it was América, who appeared to have the early advantage after they made it 1-0 when Edson Álverez, who wears number 282, beat Tigres keeper Nahuel Guzmán. But then, four more players were sent off, and three of them were Club América players.

Tigres made the most of the advantage, and tied the game after Jürgen Damm delivered a wonderful cross that was headed home by Jesús Dueñas. Tigres then went on to win the championship in the penalty shootout.

Why were there players with three digit shirt numbers on the pitch?

It was a great final, but many first-time Liga MX viewers were left with a major question mark. Why was there a player with a three digit shirt number on the field?

The explanation is actually quite simple. Liga MX forces all players, who play at the club, to be given a permanent number. This includes players from the second team, the U-20, U-17, U-15, and U-13 sides, which all play simultaneous championships. For example, if your number one goalkeeper choses the number 1, no one else at the club is allowed to use that number.

Edson Álverez is one of the players, who plays with a three digit shirt number this season. Three digit shirt numbers are not uncommon in Mexican football (VICTOR CRUZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Edson Álverez is one of the players, who plays with a three digit shirt number this season. (VICTOR CRUZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Usually, to differentiate between the different teams, players from the second squad will have a three digit shirt number starting with the number two. The younger the player, therefore, the higher his shirt number will be.

The idea is that when a player moves up from the second team, or any youth team, to the first team he retains the same number he played with in the youth setup. The thought is that this streamlines the registration process, and that it increases player identification.

With every team having to register at least 23 players it becomes apparent why three digit shirt numbers become necessary. Álvarez is a perfect example of this.

The 19-year-old defender first debuted on October 29, 2016 against Santos Laguna, and has since become an important member of the club’s first team. Thanks to his three digit shirt number, he is easily to identify on the pitch.

The most recent three digit shirt man in the Liga MX

We have taken a closer look at the Liga MX Clausura stage, and have collected the names of players, who are currently wearing a three digit shirt number.


282 – Edson Álvarez


289 – Diego Barbosa

Santos Laguna

286 – Jorge Sánchez

290 – Gerardo Arteaga

281 – Carlos Acevedo


311 – Francisco Figueroa

UNAM Pumas

301 – Omar Islas

We have found seven players who were used on matchday 4 of the Liga MX Clausura. Keep in mind that young players could be promoted at any time, and that there could be further players with three digit shirt numbers appearing in Liga MX this season.

Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist, and podcaster for 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.