I figured I'd try to get us gabachos up to speed on the new Mexican season. It helps for CONCACAF and SuperLiga scouting...
Real quick for those who don't know the structure (and please correct me if I'm wrong), the season is divided into the Apertura (August-December) and the Clausura (January-May). The 18 teams are divided into 3 groups. Each season, the top two in each group qualify for the quarterfinal round of the playoffs, while the next four best teams (regardless of group) are placed in the repechaje (wild card round). The playoffs are played over two legs.
And you thought MLS was complicated...
Atlas: Uh, they kind of sucked during the season, but then went on to earn a Copa Libertadores slot via the InterLiga tournament. Go figure. Bruno Marioni is the most well-known player, he had 7 goals in 10 games in the Apertura.
Fun Fact: Los Zorros (Foxes) are best known for developing talent. Guys like Guardado, Pardo, Borgetti, Oswaldo Sanchez, and Rafa Marquez got their start at La Academia.
Monterrey: The new home of former national team coach Ricardo La Volpe and Colorado Rapids lust object Jared Borgetti. La Volpe was hired last week after a poor InterLiga tournament. The biggest highlight for them will probably when La Volpe goes nuts talking trash about Hugo Sanchez when El Tri struggles. You know what they say about karma.
Fun Fact: Los Rayados (Stripes) is a part of the second biggest rivalry in México, the Clásico Regiomontano with Tigres.
Tigres: Speaking of Tigres, they have seen their better days. Kikin Fonseca is probably the best known player there, and he's best known for suffering the dreaded FIFA Curse after being the cover boy for the FIFA 07 video game. He's struggled ever since, coming back to Mexico after a half season with Benfica.
Fun Fact: Tigres has had the highest average attendance (42,000+) over the last ten years of all Mexican clubs.
Tecos: ECB likes them, so what more do you want? I like Hugo Droguett, the Chilean. He's scored 20 goals in his 48 games with the Owls. Cesar Menotti, the World Cup winning manager from Argentina, quit a few weeks ago after his unhappiness with the offseason roster changes made by the administration. Two top players were sent out (Pony Ruiz & Emmanuel Villa) without suitable replacements. They did sign former Atlante goleador Sebastian Gonzalez, aka Chamagol.
Fun Fact: Tecos have won one league title, back in '93.
Puebla: La Franja (The Stripe, for the sash on their jerseys) did okay in the first season back up in the Primera division. They've brought in one of the leading scorers in the league, Javier Campora from Jaguares, for the Clausura. They also brought in the Uruguayan forward Nicolas Olivera and Mexican defender Melvin Brown as reinforcements.
Fun Fact: Puebla FC are one of the oldest teams in Mexico, with many titles to their name, including a CONCACAF title in 1991.
Veracruz: Not a good start on the season for Veracruz, as they lost 1-0 to Morelia on Opening Night. The arrival of little Pony Ruiz wasn't enough. Neither were the 6 other new players brought in for Clausura.
Fun Fact: Los Tiburones Rojos is the club's nickname, the Red Sharks.
Jaguares: I'm a little worried about my Jaguares de Chiapas this season. Losing guys like Campora and Brown to Puebla, and even Gato Ortiz to Necaxa (although I'm kind of happy about that one), will put pressure on their replacements. Juan Pablo Garcia (formerly of Chivas USA) will try to rebuild his career again. The club also brought in 2 Brazilians to try to change their fortunes, Lenilson and Itamar Batista. There's lots of offensive talent down in Chiapas, led by everyone's favorite Bofo, but who's going to keep the goals out?
Fun Fact: Chiapas is the southernmost state in Mexico, bordered by Guatemala on the south and the Pacific Ocean on the west. Many of its residents don't speak Spanish, with about 1/4 of the people coming from Mayan descent.
Necaxa: Colombian Hugo Rodallega led the team with 9 goals, but it wasn't enough to fire Los Rayos (Lightning Bolts) into the playoffs. The addition of Tigres legend Walter Gaitán should make Necaxa a tough team to play against.
Fun Fact: Necaxa has the highest ever place for a Mexican team in the World Club Championships, finishing 3rd in the inaugural tournament held in Brazil in 2000.
América: The Yankees of Mexican soccer, they're coming off a successful run at the InterLiga which put them into the Copa Libertadores. They have let a few stars leave in the last few seasons (Blanco, Davino) and have replaced them with promising youth players. They have the best keeper in Mexico, Memo Ochoa.
Fun Fact: Las Aguilas (The Eagles) finished as the runner-up in the Copa Sudamericana to Arsenal de Sarandi of Argentina.
Pachuca: Los Tuzos (Gophers) are on the downswing of an incredible run in world soccer. They won the Clausura in May 2006, became the first Mexican team to win a South American title in the Sudamericana in December 2006, won the CONCACAF Champions Cup in early 2007, won the Clausura 2007, then won the first SuperLiga in the summer of 2007. Their form dipped in the Apertura 2007, and they suffered a disappointing loss to African champions Étoile Sportive du Sahel of Tunisia in the FIFA World Club Cup.
Fun Fact: Pachuca bounced back and forth between the top two divisions throughout the '90's, only becoming a top club in the last few years.
Morelia: That's how you start a new season. The Monarchs won last night 1-0 with a golazo scored by Ignacio Carrasco from inside his own half. Their best player is Luis Angel Landin, who came over from Pachuca last season. He's 22 and made his debut with El Tri at last year's Copa America.
Fun Fact: Monarcas also picked up American youth product Sonny Guadarrama from Santos in the offseason. He was born in Texas, but has featured with the Mexican U20 team.
Toluca: Argentine World Cup manager Jose Pekerman made it to the quarterfinals in his first season with Toluca in the Apertura. His countryman Hernan Cristante is the first player I think of when I think of Los Diablos Rojos (Red Devils), he's been there since 1998 and has played in 295 games with the team. That's the record for a foreign player in the Mexican Primera.
Fun Fact: Toluca's stadium, Estadio Nemesio Diez, is one of the oldest in Mexico. It's nicknamed La Bombonera (Chocolate Box) and has an incredible atmosphere when it's packed for big games.
San Luis: The team is led by Braulio Luna, a two-time World Cup player with Mexico. Alfredo Moreno of Argentina led the league in scoring in the Apertura, with 18 goals. They've never won a title, but have only been around since '99 so give them time.
Fun Fact: The club is owned by Televisa, who also owns America and Necaxa. San Luis is definitely the baby brother of that group.
Cruz Azul: One of the biggest teams in Mexico, Cruz Azul enters the Clausura after a disappointing loss in the InterLiga final against America. It's been over ten years since they have won the title, something that is starting to cause problems among the fanbase. Jimmy Lozano joins the team after a somewhat disappointing run with Tigres. Gerardo Torrado is probably the most accomplished player on the roster, after a six year run in La Liga with Sevilla and Racing. El Conejo Perez returns for another season, adding to his 400 games in goal with the club.
Fun Fact: Herculez Gomez got his start with the youth system at Cruz Azul and Cle Kooiman became the first American to captain a Mexican club there in 1993.
Chivas: Mexico's most beloved club, and DC United's recent nemesis; Chivas has won the most titles of any club in Mexico with 11. El Tri stars Omar Bravo and Ramon Ramirez are the key players. Luis Michel has stepped up from Oswaldo Sanchez's shadow and become a first line goalkeeper for the Goats.
Fun Fact: Chivas is second to Real Madrid on FIFA's list of officially recognized trophies won.
Santos: They narrowly avoided relegation in the 2007 Clausura, following that up with a semifinal run in the Apertura. El Tri midfielder Fernando Arce joins the club from Morelia for the Clausura. Daniel Ludueña, also known as The Axe, led the team in scoring last season.
Fun Fact: Edgar Castillo, a 21 year old midfielder who recently debuted for El Tri, was born in New Mexico and was the High School state player of the year in 2002 as a sophomore.
Pumas: The team is led by its captain, goalkeeper Sergio Bernal. He's been with the club since the youth system and is now 37 years old. Midfielder Israel Castro is the key, he's also been with the club since the youth days, and has started to get some attention from European teams after his performance in the last Copa America. The Brazilian Leandro Augusto is another workhorse in midfield, and is generally regarded as one of the league's top imports. Paco Palencia returned to the Mexican league with Pumas after a successful run with Chivas USA.
Fun Fact: Mike Sorber played 2 seasons with Pumas before MLS started and was named to an All-Star team, the first American to do so.
Atlante: They move to Cancun, and win their first title since '93. Goalkeeper Federico Vilar and Venezuelan star forward Giancarlo Maldonado paced the team to its title. Maldonado has 15 goals during the regular season, and added 3 more in the playoffs. Alain Nkong, former Colorado Rapids legend (?!?), parlayed his good season to a berth on Cameroon's squad in the African Nations Cup. However, Atlante didn't especially care for his absence at the beginning of the Clausura, and has shipped him off to Leon of the second division on loan. Poor Alain...
Fun Fact: Atlante became known as "El Equipo del Pueblo (The Team of the People)" in the 1920's. They were the first Mexican team to win big international matches, beating such teams as Inter Milan, Barcelona, Stuttgart, Bayern Munich, and others in the time before World War II.