Liga MX vs La Liga

Liga MX vs La Liga – What’s The Difference?

If you’ve been following the top leagues in football, you may have noticed there are a few popular ones including Liga MX and La Liga.

How are these 2 competitions different and which one is better?

Here’s what you need to know:

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The difference between Liga MX and the La Liga

Liga MX is the top tier of Mexican football consisting of 18 top-flight teams. Meanwhile, La Liga is the premier football division in Spain contested by the 20 teams in the country. 

Here is a further comparison of the two leagues:

Number of teams involved

Liga MX has 18 teams in the league. Meanwhile, La Liga consists of 20 teams, similar to most other top leagues in Europe such as

  1. Premier League
  2. Serie A 
  3. Ligue 1

The only top league in Europe without 20 teams is the Bundesliga, which has 18 teams in their league.

Origin of teams 

Teams in Liga MX originate from Mexico while those in La Liga are from Spain.

Here are some of the best teams playing in these leagues:

Liga MXLa Liga
TigresReal Madrid
Cruz AzulBarcelona
GuadalajaraAtletico de Madrid 

Frequency and duration of competition

Both competitions are held annually like all the other club football competitions. 

Liga MX and La Liga both run for a similar amount of time. Liga MX starts in July and runs till May.

Meanwhile, La Liga starts a few weeks later in August and also concludes its league in May as well.

Liga MX follows the Apertura and Clausura format, so you could say that they actually play two different league campaigns a year.

The Apertura is played from July to December while Clausura is played from January to May

La Liga takes a winter break every year normally starting in mid-December and the league resumes in the first week of January.

Liga MX takes a short break upon the conclusion of the Apertura campaign and the Clausura campaign starts a few weeks later. 

Format of the competition

La Liga follows a double round-robin format where each team faces the other 19 sides in the league twice. The results of these 38 games will determine the final standings of the league table. 

For Liga MX, the format is a lot more complicated. The league is split into an Apertura and Clausura.

Each team faces the other 17 sides once to determine league standings in the Apertura league, and the top 8 teams in the league after 17 games progress to the Liguilla playoff tournament. 

The Apertura and Clausura tournaments count as two separate championships. As such, two trophies will be handed out per season. 

The playoff tournament is played in a two-legged knockout format from the quarter-finals to the final and the winner will be crowned Apertura champions.

The same format is repeated in the second half of the season, and the winner of that competition is crowned Clausura champion.

The regular season + playoff format used in Liga MX is similar to the system used in the NBA.

The winners of both the Apertura and Clausura competitions face off in a super cup game at the start of the following season. 

Tiebreakers

Teams tied after a two-legged knockout round in the Liga MX will not go to extra time. Instead, the winner is decided by the team that finished higher in the regular-season rankings. 

This gives some importance to the performance of teams in the regular season.

However, the final goes to extra time and penalties if there is a tie after the two legs. 

For La Liga, the primary tiebreaker used is Head to Head. This means when two teams are tied for points at the end of the season, the team who performed better in the two meetings between them will be granted a higher finish in the standings.

This is different from the other top European leagues that use goal difference as their first tiebreaker. 

To find out more on what happens when teams are level on points, you can check out this article

Squad size

La Liga has a squad size limit of 23 players. 

In Liga MX, the squad size limit is unclear, however, the league has set rules on the use of foreign players. The current rule states that a maximum of 10 non-homegrown players are allowed in the squad, with only 8 of them allowed to make the matchday team. Those numbers will reduce to 9 and 7 from the 2022-23 season.

This was done to reduce the number of foreign players in Liga MX and prioritise the development of homegrown players ahead of the 2026 World Cup which Mexico will co-host.

Qualification for the competition

In the past, teams would be promoted from the Ascenso MX to Liga MX at the end of each season. However, the Ascenso MX folded due to a lack of financial resources during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As such, there is currently no promotion and relegation for Liga MX.

For La Liga, Segunda Division (second tier in Spain) teams can qualify by finishing in the top two places in their division. The third promotion spot will be competed for by the 3rd to 6th placed teams in the league.

However, you may want to note that “B” teams cannot be promoted to La Liga if their senior team is already in the league.

Continental competition placing

Liga MX is granted four slots for the CONCACAF Champions League. The team that qualifies for the CONCACAF Champions League is determined by performance in the league. 

SlotRequirement
1Apertura Champions
2Clausura Champions
3Apertura runners-up
4Clausura runners-up

In the event that one team performs well in both the Apertura and Clausura leagues, one of their eligibility rights is passed on to the best team in the league that didn’t qualify for the tournament.

Mexican club CF Monterrey won the last edition of the CONCACAF Champions League.

CONCACAF has a second-tier continental competition called the CONCACAF League, but Mexican clubs aren’t seeded for the competition.

For La Liga, teams that perform well in the league become eligible to play in UEFA competitions, as shown below:

League PositionQualification for UEFA Competition
Top 4 teams Champions League group stage
5th and 6thEuropa League group stage
7thEuropa Conference League group stage

Rewards for winning the competition

Here are the rewards your team will receive for winning either competition:

Liga MXLa Liga
Prize MoneyBased on performanceBased on performance
Qualification for next
season’s continental competition
YesYes
Qualification for Super CupTrofeo de Campeón
de Campeones 
Supercopa
de España

The Super Cup is usually the curtain raiser of the football season. This is played between the winners of the league and the cup of that particular country.

In the case of Mexico, the winners of the Apertura and Clausura tournaments compete for the Super Cup. 

The Supercopa de España was a curtain-raiser to the Spanish season. However, it is now played in the middle of the season since the format was changed in 2019

You can find out more about how a Super Cup works by reading my guides on the FA Community Shield and the UEFA Super Cup.

Dominance of teams 

In this section, we will be looking at the past winners of these 2 leagues since the 2011/2012 season:

Liga MXLa Liga
Tigres (5)Barcelona (5)
Santos Laguna (3)Real Madrid (3)
Club Leon (3)Atletico Madrid (2)
Club America (3)
Atlas FC (1)
Guadalajara(1)
Club Tijuana (1)
CF Pachuca (1)
Cruz Azul (1)
CF Monterrey (1)
Club Universidad National (1)

This accounts for the winners of both Apertura and Clausura tournaments. 

As you can see, Liga MX has a lot more competitive teams strong enough to challenge for the title. However, Tigres is still the most dominant team in the country.

Continental performances

In this section, we will see how the clubs from these leagues perform in their different intracontinental competitions. This is the best indicator of how well a league is as a whole as these competitions are between the best clubs in the continent. 

Here are the semi-finalists from each league in the CONCACAF Champions League and UEFA Champions League respectively since the 2016/17 season.

Liga MXLa Liga
2020/213 ( Monterrey, Cruz
Azul, Club America)
1 (Real Madrid)
2019/202 (Tigres, Club America)0
2018/193 (Tigres, Monterrey,
Santos Laguna) 
1 (Barcelona)
2017/182 (Club America,
Guadalajara)
1(Real Madrid)
2016/172 (Tigres,
Pachuca)
2 (Real Madrid, Atlético Madrid)

Mexican teams appear to be more dominant in their continental competition. 

Verdict 

Here is a summary of the differences between these 2 leagues:

Liga MXLa Liga
Number of teams1820
Origin of teamsMexicoSpain
FrequencyAnnuallyAnnually
Duration11 months10 months
FormatApertura
and Clausura
Double round-robin
Number of matches 3438
Squad sizeMaximum of 10 non-homegrown players23
QualificationNoneTop 2 teams from Segunda Division
Playoffs between 3rd to 6th place
Champions
League spots
4
Prize moneyBased on performanceBased on performance
Qualification for next season’s Champions LeagueYesYes
Qualification
for Super Cup
Trofeo de Campeón de Campeones Supercopa de Espana
Dominance
of teams
Mostly Tigres Equally shared among Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Atletico Madrid
Champions league performances (semi-finals)12 semi-finalists in the last 5 years5 semi-finalists in the last 5 years

Conclusion

Liga MX and La Liga are two top competitions from world football.

Based on popularity and prize money, La Liga is the more valuable competition with household names like Karim Benzema, Joao Felix, and Sergio Busquets playing in the league. 

Liga MX might not be as popular as La Liga, but it’s one of the most-watched and respected leagues in CONCACAF.

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