The Liga MX regular season has now officially finished, leaving six teams knocked out of the running for this season's championship. For those remaining, the top four in the league table will automatically qualify for the quarterfinal playoff stage, while the next eight best-ranked teams will battle it out in a preliminary single-leg play-in (repechaje) round.
In case you missed the final weekend of the regular season, here's a quick wrap-up on those invited to the Liguilla, those missing out, and other additional notes from Week 17.
Monterrey, America, Chivas, Toluca clinch byes
Almost as if attempting to silence any worries from two unexpected losses earlier this month, No. 1 seed Monterrey closed out the regular season with a 4-1 thrashing of Pumas last Saturday. Carried by a hat-trick from their leading goalscorer Rogelio Funes Mori, Los Rayados finished with 40 points, the club's short-season record.
How did they do it? Simply put: Improving their attack. Under veteran manager Victor Manuel Vucetich, Monterrey were already defensively solid last season, but were far from imposing when it came to scoring. While maintaining that reliability in defense, they've been able to become more deadly in the final third thanks to the efforts of key figures like Funes Mori, German Berterame and Alfonso Gonzalez.
That said, Monterrey fell just one goal short of the league-leading scoring total of 36 from No. 2 seed Club America. Although their 1-0 win over FC Juarez wasn't an example of America's high-scoring ways, it ensured an invaluable top four finish.
Speaking of finding the back of the net, credit is also due to Club America's Henry Martin, whose 14 goals earned him this season's Liga MX goalscoring title. Once the playoffs ramp up, the 30-year-old Mexican forward will be one of the more prominent players to watch.
Finishing behind Club America on a lower goal differential, No. 3 Chivas made a Monterrey-like statement with a 4-1 victory vs. Mazatlan. No other club had a stronger finish to the Clausura than this Chivas side that is currently on a four-game winning streak.
With No. 4 seed Toluca, can talk plenty about manager Ignacio Ambriz's heavy-possession style that helped create a 3-0 win on Sunday against Necaxa. Kudos to high-flying winger/wing-back Maximiliano Araujo, but the true X-factor is goalkeeper Tiago Volpi. His shot-stopping alone already makes him one of the best in Liga MX in his position, but what interestingly sets him apart is his attacking impact. He scored on a Paneka in Sunday's win, his third goal from the penalty spot this season.
Leon, Tigres the faves in the play-in round?
Even with three points through a 1-0 win over Queretaro in Week 17, defending champions Pachuca remained at fifth in the table. Since the early stages of the Clausura, inconsistent results and defensive mistakes ultimately cost the squad. In the play-in round, Pachuca will take on a 13th place Santos Laguna that are lucky to be invited to the party. Due to No. 10 seed Queretaro finishing last in the coefficient table (points per game average over the last three years), Los Gallos Blancos' playoff position was instead given to Santos, as the next best team outside the top 12.
¡Lista la #Reclasificación! 🤩— Liga BBVA MX (@LigaBBVAMX) May 1, 2023
Así se jugará la siguiente ronda del #Clausura2023:@Tuzos vs @ClubSantos@clubleonfc vs @AtletideSanLuis @TigresOficial vs @ClubPueblaMX@CruzAzul vs @AtlasFC
8 Clubes, 4 lugares para los #4tosDeFinal#LigaBBVAMX ⚽ pic.twitter.com/PEDentBngy
No. 6 seed Leon will have much to be happy about after breezing past Tigres 3-0 on Sunday night. Sure, it was up against an alternate Tigres roster that is preparing for the CONCACAF Champions League -- against Leon this Wednesday, oddly enough -- but Leon's prize will be a play-in round battle against No. 12 Atletico San Luis. Somehow squeezing into the playoffs with just 16 goals over 17 games, Atletico drew 0-0 at home with Atlas in Week 17 and won't be much of a threat.
Despite the fact that No. 7 seed Tigres will be licking their wounds after losing to Leon, their star players will at least be well-rested in a busy weekend that features the CCL semifinal second leg and a play-in match against No. 11 seed Puebla. Let's not forget that Puebla failed to do much against Tigres a couple weeks back in a 1-0 loss.
No. 8 seed Cruz Azul shook off a bad run of form with a narrow 3-2 victory over Santos Laguna last Saturday. Still a work in progress under the well-respected but aging ways of new coach Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti, it wouldn't be a shock if they ran into problems against a No. 9 Atlas (undefeated in their last six Liga MX matches).
Queretaro, despite top 10 finish, denied postseason play
Now for the teams whose season has ended. Queretaro finished in 10th place but their spot at the bottom of the coefficient table ultimately left them out of the running for the playoffs. That benefitted Santos Laguna, who were just one point above 14th place Pumas. All that Pumas needed was just a draw from the final weekend to take the playoff spot over Santos Laguna, but that was probably too much to ask against top side Monterrey.
For 15th place Club Tijuana, any last minute hopes of a sprint into the playoffs were thrown out the window after losing 5-2 to Puebla in Week 17. The February arrival of former Mexico coach Miguel "Piojo" Herrera wasn't enough to reawaken a Xolos squad that are lacking any bite.
16th place FC Juarez extended their winless streak to 11 after losing to Club America last week, 17th place Necaxa only scored once in their last five games (if you don't count own-goals), and 18th place Mazatlan announced after Sunday's loss to Chivas that manager Ruben Omar Romano has been fired. In fact, in the same statement regarding Romano, they also dropped eight players and transfer-listed an additional two.
According to league regulations, fines will be given to the teams in the bottom three of the coefficient table, with last in the coefficient table paying the highest fee. Mazatlan will pay 33 million pesos, Club Tijuana will pay 47 million pesos and Queretaro will pay 80 million pesos.