Which teams can you trust on Wildcard Weekend? Here’s a primer

Reigning Liga MX champs Pachuca open their title defense at home against Santos Laguna, a team the Tuzos defeated 4-1 back on Matchday 14. (Photo by Manuel Guadarrama/Getty Images)
Reigning Liga MX champs Pachuca open their title defense at home against Santos Laguna, a team the Tuzos defeated 4-1 back on Matchday 14. (Photo by Manuel Guadarrama/Getty Images) /
Liga MX Wildcard Weekend preview
Cruz Azul might well have to triple-team Atlas dangerman Julián Quiñones – like they did here on Matchday 7 in a 1-0 win at the Estadio Azteca – if they hope to advance to the Liga MX quarterfinals. (Photo by Mauricio Salas/Jam Media/Getty Images) /

The Clausura 2023 playoffs are upon us and Liga MX Wildcard Weekend promises to provide plenty of interesting storylines.

This will be the last time 12 (of the league’s 18) teams qualify for the postseason as Liga MX officials voted last month to return to an eight-team playoff format beginning with the Apertura 2023.

Wildcard Weekend was conceived at the beginning of the pandemic (when attendance was restricted) as a way for a few clubs to earn extra money, but next season the playoff format will go straight to the “Liguilla.”

The wildcard round is a one-game playoff with the four highest-seeded teams playing host. If the match ends in a tie, the teams go directly to a penalty shoot-out.

Liga MX Wildcard Weekend preview

Here’s a quick look at all four wildcard match-ups, including the result from the regular season.

All times listed are local times.

No. 8 Cruz Azul vs No. 9 Atlas, Saturday 5 pm

Matchday 7: Cruz Azul 1, Atlas 0

Reasons to believe in Atlas: The Zorros scored more goals than Cruz Azul this season (27 to 22) while Cruz Azul finished with a –1 goal differential. Atlas boasts a +5 which is third-best among those playing on Wildcard Weekend. The Cementeros lost 7 of 17 games this season while “los Rojinegros” lost just 4 times. The ninth-seeded Zorros proved to be a tough team to beat, scratching-and-clawing their way to nine draws during the Clausura 2023. Finally, Atlas comes into the game at Estadio Azteca on a six-game unbeaten streak (3-3-0) whereas “La Máquina Azul” lost two of their last three matches and in their 3-2 season-ending win, they renewed their tendency to “Cruzazulear” late in games (leading 3-0 with less than 5 minutes remaining against Santos Laguna, the Cementeros bumbled their way to the finish line).

No. 5 Pachuca vs No. 12 Santos Laguna, Saturday 7 pm

Matchday 14: Santos Laguna 1, Pachuca 4

Reasons to believe in Pachuca: The Tuzos scored 32 times, one of just four teams to surpass 30 goals, while only last-place Mazatlán FC (41) conceded more goals than Santos Laguna (37), a club that reached the playoffs despite a –14 goal differential. That – as well as the regular-season result – would seem to suggest Guillermo Almada’s men are likely to score more than once. Still, defending champion Pachuca was maddeningly inconsistent this season, losing six times (the Tuzos lost six regular-season games in all of 2022 while reaching two straight Liga MX finals) but their 10 victories was tied for second-best in the league.

No. 6 León vs No. 11 Atlético de San Luis, Sunday 7 pm

Matchday 10: León 2, San Luis 0

Reasons to believe in León: The Esmeraldas are coming off two strong performances against the powerful (?) Tigres, defeating “los felinos” 3-1 (4-3 aggregate) in the Concacaf Champions League semifinal on May 3 then routing the northern giants 3-0 in the season finale. León boasts the best defense in Liga MX (13 goals allowed) and goalie Rodolfo Cota led the league with nine clean sheets. As for the Tuneros, nobody in Liga MX scored fewer goals (16) and they were 1-1-7 on the road this season.

No. 7 Tigres vs No. 10 Puebla, Sunday 9 pm

Matchday 16: Tigres 1, Puebla 0

Reasons to believe in Tigres: Although Tigres staggered into the playoffs (they went 1-1-5 down the stretch) and their last three wins were by unimpressive 1-0 margins (over Puebla, Necaxa and Atlas), the veteran-laden side simply has a much stronger roster than the Camoteros. Puebla lost more games (9) than any other playoff team and “La Franja” conceded 18 goals in nine road games.

Next. Liga MX also-rans already cleaning house. dark

The Liga MX quarterfinals will begin mid-week and will be a home-and-home series with the higher seed hosting the return match next weekend. The bracket will be determined by seeding. In other words, top-seeded Monterrey will face the lowest-seeded survivor of Wildcard Weekend, No. 2 seed América will be matched up with the second-lowest surviving seed, and so on.