Champs visit Puebla with top playoff seed on line; Pumas in search of qualification

América already has first-round bye, but UNAM is fighting for Liga MX postseason invitation
América and UNAM play their season finales tonight, the former aiming to wrap up the No. 1 seed throughout the Liga MX playoffs, the latter hoping to qualify for the tournament with a win at Querétaro.
América and UNAM play their season finales tonight, the former aiming to wrap up the No. 1 seed throughout the Liga MX playoffs, the latter hoping to qualify for the tournament with a win at Querétaro. / Manuel Velasquez/GettyImages

The Liga MX playoff race is going down to the wire with eight of the nine contests on the Match day 17 calendar carrying postseason implications.

The season finales begin tonight with league-leading América visiting last-place Puebla and 10th-place Querétaro hosting 9th-place UNAM.

For the Aguilas, a win in Estadio Cuauhtémoc will clinch the top seed throughout the Liga MX playoffs, meaning that André Jardine’s men will get to host the return match of every series they play in at Estadio Azteca.

The other match – at Estadio Corregidora – has much more at stake as the loser could conceivably miss out on the postseason, whereas the Pumas only need a draw to secure a spot in the Play-In Tournament.

Liga MX playoff royalty

América is already guaranteed a first-round bye but the No. 1 seed is the target. 

The Aguilas are in the middle of the Concacaf Champions Cup semifinals (“Los Azulcremas” battled visiting Pachuca to a 1-1 draw in the first leg and play the return match in Hidalgo on Tuesday), so coach Jardine would like to leap on the Camoteros early and earn some rest for key players.

América can likely expect some help from the worst defense in Liga MX (Puebla has conceded 41 goals in 16 games and has a minus-24 goal differential), while at the same time Aguilas goalie Luis Malagón – if he gets the start – will be trying to end a streak in which he has allowed a goal in four straight matches.

The Aguilas are the lone Liga MX team to reach the quarterfinals in each of the past 11 seasons (including the Clausura 2024). No other club comes close.  

The Northern Giants – Monterrey and Tigres – have actually reached the postseason in 10 consecutive seasons, but the Rayados failed to emerge from the wildcard round three times and Tigres came up short of the Liguilla five times.

Last call for Gallos Blancos

Just three weeks ago, Querétaro (23 points) appeared to be headed for a return to the Liga MX playoffs for the first time in five seasons.

Mauro Genk’s men had just beaten León and were sitting in 8th place, 1 point ahead of Guadalajara and with a 3-point cushion over UNAM.

Since then, the Gallos have lost to Mazatlán FC and Guadalajara, while the Chivas and Pumas won both their matches.

Now Querétaro faces a must-win situation against surging UNAM, with 11th-place León (23 points) poised to leap-frog the Gallos should they be defeathered by the Pumas.

UNAM (26 points) enters the match on a high after an impressive victory over América in the Clásico Capitalino, upsetting the Liga MX champs 2-1.

The visiting Pumas could possibly climb as high as 5th – and earn a first-round bye – with a win and losses by Tigres, Pachuca, Guadalajara and Necaxa (I know, far-fetched but mathematically possible).

Coach Gustavo Lema knows a draw ensures the season continues, but victory would allow "los felinos" to arrive to the dance with momentum. A loss does not automatically spell doom since UNAM has a 7-goal advantage over León in the all-important goal-differential tie-break.

Querétaro knows that a loss allows León to steal the No. 10 seed with a draw or win at 12th-place FC Juárez on Saturday. A Gallos Blancos draw against UNAM means the Esmeraldas would have to defeat Juárez since Querétaro owns the goal-differential advantage (+1 to minus–2).


If Querétaro wins, then both the Pumas and Gallos would have to sweat out Saturday's León-Juárez match to see if "La Fiera" can put up a big score and sneak past either or both teams on goal differential. That could be a tough ask since León is only the 10th-best offense in Liga MX (22 goals scored).