Puebla, Tijuana and FC Juárez with one last chance to claim wildcard spots

Tijuana pays a visit to Puebla on the final weekend of the Liga MX season with both teams desperately chasing a wildcard spot. (Photo by Francisco Vega/Getty Images)
Tijuana pays a visit to Puebla on the final weekend of the Liga MX season with both teams desperately chasing a wildcard spot. (Photo by Francisco Vega/Getty Images) /
Liga MX M17 2
América’s Henry Martín enters the final weekend with a 2-goal lead atop the Liga MX scoring race. (Photo by Mauricio Salas/Jam Media/Getty Images) /

The Liga MX playoff field could be set after Friday night’s doubleheader but if FC Juárez pulls off the upset of the year against América then the weekend becomes that much more entertaining.

Matchday 17 kicks off in Puebla with the Camoteros playing host to Tijuana. Both teams need a win to remain alive for a wildcard spot – the hosts could qualify with a draw but only if either Atlético de San Luis or UNAM lose by 4 goals on Saturday.

A Puebla win would boost “La Franja” to 20 points which combined with draw/loss by Santos Laguna (19 points), UNAM (18 points) or San Luis (18 points) would lift the Camoteros into the playoffs in Eduardo Arce’s first season in charge. As for the Xolos, they must beat Puebla to reach 19 points then hope for a Santos Laguna loss or loss/draw by either UNAM or San Luis.

Up at the border, the Bravos (15 points) would not only have to shock the high-flying Aguilas, they would need several other results to go in their favor. A tie in the Puebla-Tijuana match would help, but then they would need Atlético de San Luis or UNAM to lose (and the Pumas would have to lose by 2 goals or more). Juárez’s poor goal differential (–7) might require they somehow defeat América by 2 goals. All in all, a Bravos appearance in the playoffs for just the second time in franchise history appears very unlikely.

Liga MX scoring race

We’ll preview the remainder of the weekend schedule after the Friday night results which will afford us a more complete idea of the playoff permutations.

For now, let’s have a look at the Liga MX scoring race and other items of interest to soccer nerds.

Leading MVP candidate Henry Martín is poised to become the first Mexican to win the Liga MX Golden Boot since the Apertura 2019 when Guadalajara’s Alan Pulido (now with MLS club Sporting Kansas City) was co-champion with Necaxa’s Mauro Quiroga. The two strikers shared the trophy with 12 goals each.

Martín already has 14 goals on the season and is aiming to pull up alongside Angel Reyna who was the last Mexican to win the scoring title outright. For that, you have to go back 12 years where you’ll find that Reyna – playing for América just like Henry – found the net 13 times.

Henry – who also is tied for the league lead with 5 assists – has a 2-goal lead over Atlas forward Julián Quiñones but JQ has been playing like a beast of late. The burly Colombian forward has netted in five straight games totaling 8 goals.

Henry did most of his damage early in the Clausura 2023, putting together a 6-game scoring streak beginning in Matchday 2, but has slowed down a bit as América’s competition has gotten stiffer down the stretch. The 30-year-old Team Mexico striker has scored four times in the past five games.

As for the much less prestigious Most Assists trophy (which doesn’t actually earn a trophy), Henry is tied with teammate Diego Valdés, Puebla’s Federico Mancuello and Atlas’ Jonathan Herrera.

Six other players have recorded 4 assists on the season.

On the other end of the pitch, Santos Laguna keeper Carlos Acevedo leads Liga MX with 63 saves. Unfortunately, the El Tri netminder also leads Liga MX with 34 goals allowed, far and away the most in the league. Puebla’s Antony Silva is next with 30 goals conceded.

Acevedo has also faced the most shots this season (271) which speaks to the poor defense in front of him (and is a principle reason the Guerreros are now playing with an interim coach after Eduardo Fentanes was fired earlier this week even though “los laguneros” are still in the playoff hunt).

Monterrey’s Esteban Andrada boasts the best save percentage in Liga MX (29.5%), just ahead of Mazatlán FC’s Ricardo Gutiérrez (29.3%).

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León’s Rodolfo Cota and Tigres netminder Nahuel Guzmán top all Liga MX goalies with 8 shutouts. Those two will square off in the season finale on Sunday though it is no sure bet that they both play (they probably will, but we shall see) since these two Liga MX clubs face each other on Wednesday in a Concacaf Champions League semifinal match.