Liga MX clubs head into the final weekend of the Clausura 2023 with three wildcard spots unclaimed and six teams vying for the final invitations to the postseason party.
At the top of the table, three of the Top 4 seeds – and the first-round bye that goes with them – remain unconfirmed. Monterrey (37 points) has the No. 1 seed sewn up, but five teams are in the race to take next weekend off.
All nine Matchday 17 contests have playoff implications and the weekend finale features yet another León-Tigres clash as the two clubs are battling over seeding as well as a spot in the Concacaf Champions League final.
We’ll preview the best matches of the weekend in the next Liga MX Notebook, but today we’ll lay out the playoff permutations for all 18 teams.
Cream of the Liga MX crop
As mentioned above, Monterrey has the top seed in the bag so Víctor Manuel Vucetich can give some of his wounded warriors the weekend off.
América (31 points) and the Chivas (31 points) need only to draw in their respective season finales to secure a first-round bye.
The Aguilas have the benefit of a +14 goal differential so even if they lose at FC Juárez, fifth-place Pachuca (28 points) would have to make up 7 goals to climb past them.
The Chivas, on the other hand, are even with the Tuzos at +7 so a loss and a Pachuca win would see the Hidalguenses leapfrog past “El Rebaño Sagrado.” But as Guadalajara hosts last-place Mazatlán FC, that scenario is unlikely.
Fourth-place Toluca (29 points) hosts 17th-place Necaxa so Pachuca and sixth-place León (27 points) would need a miracle to claim the fourth bye.
All things being even, Pachuca, León and seventh-place Tigres (25 points) will host games on Wildcard Weekend. The previously mentioned León-Tigres match will be interesting to watch. Though León has an outside chance at claiming a first-round bye, they’ll also want to keep key players fresh ahead of the return leg of their CCL semifinal series on May 3.
As for Tigres, they could pip León for the No. 6 seed with a win Sunday (and avoid a likely quarterfinal match-up against América), but coach Robert Siboldi might calculate that it’s better to concentrate on protecting their slim advantage in the Concachampions, thus he might rest several regulars.
Wildcard contenders, minus one
In the middle of the Liga MX table we find Cruz Azul (21 points), Atlas (20 points), Querétaro (20 points) and Santos Laguna (19 points).
The Cementeros and the Zorros are guaranteed a playoff spot, while Querétaro is inelegible for the postseason as they will finish last in the Relegation Standings (an algorithm based on performance over the most recent three years and the three worst teams pay a steep fine at the end of each footballing year).
Not only must the last-place team pay 80 million pesos but they are blocked from participating in the playoffs. So the suddenly resurgent Gallos Blancos are paying for several very bad seasons and even though they could finish as high as eighth, their season will end on Sunday.
Cruz Azul can hold onto the No. 8 seed – and a home game on Wildcard Weekend – with a win against visiting Santos Laguna. The struggling Guerreros will be playing with a new coach after sacking Eduardo Fentanes this week and a loss could put them in danger of dropping out of the Top 12.
If the Cementeros should lose, Atlas can steal the eighth seed with a win or draw and if “La Máquina Azul” should settle for a tie, the Zorros can still climb past them with a win. However, “los Rojinegros” visit Atlético de San Luis (18 points) who can hold onto the final wildcard spot with a victory, so the game at Estadio Alfonso Lastras will have a playoff atmosphere.
Just above the Tuneros are the Pumas (18 points) who face the unenviable task of playing the Liga MX’s best team, Monterrey. UNAM will hope the Rayados just play out the string, because a loss or a draw could see them miss out on the playoffs.
Puebla (17 points) hosts Tijuana (16 points) in the weekend curtain-raiser knowing that a win could earn them a ticket to the postseason dance. A Camoteros triumph combined with a Pumas or Tuneros loss would do the trick.
For its part, Tijuana must win and hope that Santos Laguna, UNAM or Atlético de San Luis loses. Tijuana could also book a seat the playoff banquet with a victory and a San Luis draw.
Wait till next season!
FC Juárez (15 points) actually has a slim chance of reaching Wildcard Weekend, but as they sit in 16th place and the permutations are so fantastical, we’ve included the Bravos in this list of also-rans.
The Boys from the Border must defeat América Friday night (that in itself is unlikely as the Aguilas are the hottest team in Liga MX at the moment, going 4-1-0 against playoff teams before settling for a draw against UNAM in last weekend’s Clásico Capitalino).
Then, Juárez must hope that the Puebla-Tijuana match ends in a draw while either Atlético de San Luis or UNAM loses.
That leaves us with the Liga MX cellar-dwellers – Necaxa (14 points) and Mazatlán FC (7 points) – both of whom will start the next Liga MX season with Relegation Zone issues. The Rayos have already started making front-office moves.