All eyes on Estadio Azteca as América wrestles Cruz Azul for CL24 hardware

The Liga MX title is up for grabs as Mexico City rivals enter Gran Final all even at 1-1
The winner of tonight's Clásico Joven at Estadio Azteca will be crowned Liga MX champions.
The winner of tonight's Clásico Joven at Estadio Azteca will be crowned Liga MX champions. / Hector Vivas/GettyImages

Good grief! Tonight’s Gran Final at the Estadio Azteca is gonna be played in sweltering conditions. 

Kick-off for the Clausura 2024 championship match at “El Coloso de Santa Úrsula” is set for 7 p.m. when temps will still be hovering near 27˚C degrees (80˚F). And Tlaloc is expected to sweep across the Valley of Mexico around the same time, perhaps making for a soggy pitch.

There’s little doubt that the better-conditioned team will have one foot on the Liga MX trophy podium right from the opening whistle.

Should make for some great drama. A sell-out crowd ... Cruz Azul and América all tied at 1-1 after the first 90 minutes ... and Mexico City bragging rights at stake.

Liga MX insiders say …

Talk among the pundits is that América is facing the greater pressure tonight.

After coming up short in the Concacaf Champions Cup, Aguilas management will not accept anything less than the team’s 15th Liga MX championship from the highest-paid club in Mexico.

But “Los Azulcremas” arrive as the defending champion and the No. 1 seed, so they don't lack for confidence. Oh, and they also boast the stingiest defense in Liga MX – only 15 goals allowed in 22 games, playoffs included. 

Coach André Jardine did have one injury worry. Julián Quiñones – the club’s top goal-scorer in the playoffs (2) – exited the first leg of the final with a thigh complaint. 

No doubt, JQ’s availability will be a game-time decision, but Jardine has a deep bench to call upon, with Javairo Dilrosun and Brian Rodríguez as top candidates.

So, continuing the narrative … Cruz Azul has no pressure because they are in a Liga MX final at least six months ahead of schedule.

The Cementeros finished 16th last season (thanks to the third-worst defense in Liga MX). And dynamic young coach Martín Anselmi took over a team in transition, installing a high-risk tactical approach to which the team adapted with surprising effectiveness.

But the “We’re just happy to be here” shtick won’t satisfy Cementeros Nation. Especially when they are facing those #%&!!W##% Aguilas!

América has dominated the "Clásico Joven" in the playoffs, including three of four finals. “La Máquina Azul” won the first-ever Junior Classic Final, but that was 52 years ago. 

The Aguilas have won the last three times these Mexico City rivals have met in the Liga MX finals, including two thrillers last decade. And the Televisa-owned franchise has won 12 of 16 playoff series overall against Cruz Azul.

Ergo, the pressure will be on Cruz Azul to avoid being flogged by big brother yet again.

Also making headlines …

Sports tabloid Record is reporting that All-Star defender Sebastián Cáceres has passed a fitness test and could be available off the bench.

The 24-year-old fullback underwent microscopic surgery on May 3 and his recovery advanced ahead of schedule, but one wonders whether he’d risk a setback ahead of this summer’s Copa América.

Things are a bit more tense over in La Noria where Cruz Azul officials are cringing at the untimely reappearance of former top executive Guillermo Álvarez who is wanted on racketeering and money-laundering charges.

“Billy” released a video in which he slammed his successor Víctor Velázquez as corrupt and expressed support for struggling workers at Cruz Azul Co-op plants.

Cementeros supporters ripped Álvarez for carrying out a personal vendetta even if it destabilizes the team.


Marco Antonio Ortiz was given the whistle for Sunday’s match, his third Liga MX final but his first in a Gran Final. Previously, “El Gato” was the man in black for the first leg of the Clausura 2019 and the first leg of the Apertura 2022 finals/.