With a short summer break now over, Liga MX is back for the 2023 Apertura season!

Will Tigres be able to hold onto their trophy from the 2023 Clausura? Will Chivas step up after losing last season’s final? What about some of the off-the-field news that has dominated headlines about the structure of Liga MX?

Looking ahead to the regular season, here are a few predictions, storylines to follow and team-by-team previews for the next Liga MX tournament.

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219 - Replay Madness

Title favorite: CHIVAS

We can’t forget how close Los Rojiblancos were to winning the title last season. Were it not for some second half mistakes against Tigres in the second leg of the final, manager Veljko Paunovic and his men would have brought the Liga MX giants a championship in a new era for the club.

Defensively strong and organized through either a 4-1-4-1 or 4-3-3 formation, what has made Chivas so resilient in 2023 is not only a rapid adaptation to Paunovic’s gameplan in his first season during the Clausura, but also a seamless ability to change tactics when needed. Even with star forward Alexis Vega still recovering from an injury, the Clausura highlighted that Paunovic doesn’t need to consistently rely on his marquee players like Vega or Victor Guzman to find success.

And it wouldn’t hurt to have another marquee player either.

A missing piece of the Chivas puzzle could soon arrive with ESPN Mexico reporting that the club are close to signing Mexican international midfielder Erick Gutierrez from PSV Eindhoven.

234 - Replay Madness

Potential letdown: PACHUCA

There’s reason to worry here for last season’s fifth place team.

Despite the club boasting the best academy structure in Liga MX and winning the 2022 Apertura title, Los Tuzos have let go of five players this summer that took part in last year’s final. That number extends to seven when you include players who were let go during the winter, and that’s not even including the quick exit of 2022 MLS Cup winner Cristian “Chico” Arango, who was transferred to Real Salt Lake after just a few months with Pachuca.

Even at the managerial level, Uruguayan coach Guillermo Almada hasn’t been shy about wanting a bigger job. Ahead of last Sunday’s Campeon de Campeones match against Tigres, which Pachuca lost 2-1, Almada admitted that he has an exit clause in his contract for a possible national team position. Mexico’s men’s national team, who once had Almada as a managerial candidate earlier this year, are currently being led by interim coach Jaime “Jimmy” Lozano.

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MVP favorite: Julian Quiñones, Atlas

At his best, there are very few in Liga MX that are capable of recreating what the 26-year-old Colombian could do. Clever with his decision-making and energetic with his quick dribbling, the winger also has a great eye for a goal, scoring 12 times in 17 regular season matches in the previous tournament. Assuming Atlas can build off their ninth place finish last season, Quiñones will have even more opportunities to make an impact in the final third.

Depending on how things go, he could also be one of the more thrilling players in not only Liga MX, but also Mexican soccer altogether. Playing professionally in Mexico since he was 18, Quinones is currently in the process to gain citizenship in the country.

Could another great season soon help make a case for El Tri?

218 - Replay Madness

Young player to watch: Rodrigo Huescas, Cruz Azul

There’s problems behind-the-scenes for Cruz Azul, which we’ll get into later, but that probably won’t stop the progress of the 19-year-old Rodrigo Huescas. With 15 appearances last season, the young Mexican was deployed all over the field, at times playing as a fullback, wing-back, winger and midfielder.

Well-rounded in both the defense and attack, there have been no lack of rumors regarding European teams that are tracking him. Who knows, by the time July or August rolls around, he might not even be a part of the Cruz Azul roster that recently sent Eredivisie champion Santiago Gimenez abroad last year.

Top storylines: New rules, ownership carousel, impact of Gold Cup and Leagues Cup

Constantly shifting and adjusting their structure, Liga MX announced a number of alterations in May for 2023-24, which include: A financial prize (and spot in the CONCACAF Champions Cup and Leagues Cup knockout stage) for the year-long points leader, a drop in foreign roster spots from eight to seven, and reducing the amount of playoff invitations from 12 teams to 10.

For the playoffs, the top six in the league table will automatically qualify for a spot in the quarterfinal stage. The winner of a play-in match between the No. 7 seed and the No. 8 seed will gain an additional quarterfinal invitation. For the final quarterfinal invitation, the loser of the No. 7 vs. No. 8 match-up would then take on the winner of No. 9 vs. No. 10 in a format similar to the NBA’s play-in format.

Promotion and relegation for Mexico’s top flight, at time of writing, remains paused. In order for pro/rel to return, there needs to be at least four certified teams in the second division that could then be eligible to fight for promotion.

Also of note is the aim to create a new framework to sell clubs that share ownership with another Mexican team. Atlas, Santos Laguna, Queretaro and Mazatlan have announced interest in the process to bring in new owners.

Liga MX fans should keep an eye on the impact of the Gold Cup and Leagues Cup as well. 18 Liga MX players in total are at the Gold Cup, with 14 representing Mexico. If El Tri were to make the Gold Cup final, that would then mean that 14 of those players from eight Liga MX clubs would be unavailable from Weeks 1 through 3 of the season.

And after Week 3? The expanded Leagues Cup tournament that features all Liga MX and MLS clubs will run from July 12-August 19. For key Mexican national team figures that play for title-contending clubs at the Leagues Cup, they may not have much energy left once Liga MX returns for a condensed season in late August.

Team-by-team preview (in alphabetical order)


2023 Clausura regular season: 2nd place, 9W-7D-1L
2023 Clausura playoffs: Semifinalists

They’ve got a new manager in charge with Andre Jardine, the addition of Mexican national team fullback Kevin Alvarez, and the return of Liga MX’s 2022-23 MVP Henry Martin. They should be title-contenders once again, but there’s a chance that they’ll have a slow start without four players (the most in Liga MX) who are involved in the ongoing Gold Cup.



2023 Clausura regular season: 9th place, 4W-9D-4L
2023 Clausura playoffs: Quarterfinalists

The Benjamin Mora experiment began to pay off before the summer, and given another preseason for his players to understand his methods, Atlas will be expected to make small improvements in the Apertura. They also still have the most entertaining player in Liga MX, the aforementioed Julian Quiñones.



2023 Clausura regular season: 12th place, 5W-4D-8L
2023 Clausura playoffs: Quarterfinalists

It’s now time for another rebuild season for the team that has made a number of roster adjustments and also seen Andre Jardine, their former manager, leave for Club America. Hoping to maintain some of the magic that pushed them to the quarterfinals last season, assistant coach Gustavo Leal has since been given Jardine’s position.



2023 Clausura regular season: 3rd place, 10W-4D-3L
2023 Clausura playoffs: Finalists

Tantalizingly close to winning a title in Veljko Paunovic’s first season, Chivas are now aiming to bring the signing of the summer through Erick Gutierrez. As noted above, only some small details are needed for the player that could elevate Chivas to a possible trophy in the Apertura.



2023 Clausura regular season: 8th place, 7W-3D-7L
2023 Clausura playoffs: Play-in round

There’s turmoil, even before the start of the Apertura. Club manager Ricardo “Tuca” Ferretti and Cruz Azul front office staff aren’t meeting eye-to-eye on matters regarding their current roster upheaval. With lots of squad changes, and some possible tension behind the scenes, it’s tough to see them exceeding what they did in the Clausura. Oh, and, they’re expected to play Lionel Messi and Inter Miami CF when the Leagues Cup starts in late July.



2023 Clausura regular season: 16th place, 3W-6D-8L
2023 Clausura playoffs: Didn’t qualify

Sure, by the time the season kicks off, they will likely have the most serious roster overhaul of the summer, but Juarez are now looking younger and with some very interesting reinforcements. The additions of intriguing players like Haret Ortega, Sebastian Bouquet, dual-national Sebastian Saucedo, and veteran winger Aviles Hurtado, could make this a surprisingly tough team.



2023 Clausura regular season: 6th place, 8W-6D-3L
2023 Clausura playoffs: Play-in round

Expect the 2023 Concacaf Champions League winners to be motivated by their international success from earlier this year. Led by up-and-coming manager Nicolas Larcamon, Leon’s defensive rigidity, and the signing of Uruguayan forward Federico Viñas, should make them contenders in the Apertura.



2023 Clausura regular season: 18th place, 2W-1D-14L
2023 Clausura playoffs: Didn’t Qualify

It’s only up from here, right? Putting their hopes on the shoulders of 41-year-old Spanish manager Ismael Rescalvo, who was hired in May, Mazatlan and their new coach will need to immediately shore up their defense that allowed a Clausura-worst total of 41 goals in 17 games.



2023 Clausura regular season: 1st place, 13W-1D-3L
2023 Clausura playoffs: Semifinalists

Head coach Victor Manuel Vucetich didn’t reach expectations and was fired after his semifinal exit, and in his place, Monterrey ownership simply looked down the regular season standings and picked up the manager who left second-place Club America, Fernando Ortiz. With a more attack-minded style of play, and with plenty of talent available, they’ll easily be in the title race.



2023 Clausura regular season: 17th place, 3W-5D-9L
2023 Clausura playoffs: Didn’t qualify

With a recent history of lowkey clever signings that have been made once again this offseason, and the summer hiring former Venezuela national team manager Rafael Dudamel, Necaxa should at least aim to be in the playoff conversation this season. It does take time for most coaches to adjust to Liga MX though, so we’ll see how the first few weeks go for Dudamel.



2023 Clausura regular season: 5th place, 10W-1D-6L
2023 Clausura playoffs: Play-in round

As mentioned earlier, there’s reason to worry about a Pachuca side that let go of too many key players, including Cristian Arango. That said, that’s typically the norm for the academy-dependent team that might have more diamonds that have yet to be unearthed.



2023 Clausura regular season: 11th place, 6W-2D-9L
2023 Clausura playoffs: Play-in round

Not much to say about a Puebla setup that are still trying to find their footing in the post-Larcamon era. The No. 1 priority for coach Eduardo Arce is bolstering the leaky defense that was on the wrong end of a large handful of high-scoring results last season.



2023 Clausura regular season: 14th place, 5W-3D-9L
2023 Clausura playoffs: Didn’t qualify

If there’s any hope for Pumas, it’s that new manager Antonio Mohamed stepped in during March and closed out the Clausura with a decent 2W-1D-1L record. It wasn’t enough to make the playoffs, but now with a full preseason under him, and the expected addition of a compelling signing like defender Lisandro Magallan, Pumas look set to improve.



2023 Clausura regular season: 10th place, 4W-8D-5L
2023 Clausura playoffs: Didn’t qualify (due to being last in coefficient table)

Goalscorer Camilo Sanvezzo is back, flashy winger Joaquin Montecinos has joined the roster, and fans are now officially back in the Estadio Corregidora for a full season after a year-long ban. Can Queretaro turn into a true playoff contender? If the frontline can improve their numbers from last season, they’ll be a team to follow.



2023 Clausura regular season: 13th place, 5W-4D-8L
2023 Clausura playoffs: Quarterfinalists

Santos Laguna don’t tend to struggle for long periods of time in their modern era. Pedro Aquino and Duvan Vergara have the capabilities to be the Liga MX signings of the summer, and up top, there’s still hope for a breakout season in former Newcastle United loanee Santiago Muñoz.



2023 Clausura regular season: 7th place, 7W-4D-6L
2023 Clausura playoffs: Champions

After winning last season’s title, the summer’s Campeon de Campeones, and signing promising midfielder Eugenio Pizzuto, is another Liga MX championship next? They’ll likely come close, but it’s also difficult to feel fully confident in a team that was erratic last season, and with three different managers too.



2023 Clausura regular season: 15th place, 3W-7D-7L
2023 Clausura playoffs: Didn’t qualify

As per usual, Tijuana are rolling the dice with a long list of roster changes. Led by former Mexico manager Miguel “Piojo” Herrera for another season, there’s reason for some optimism with much-needed reinforcements like veteran goalkeeper Jesus “Chuy” Corona and Paraguayan goalscorer Carlos Gonzalez.



2023 Clausura regular season: 4th place, 9W-5D-3L
2023 Clausura playoffs: Quarterfinalists

Tactically astute with his possession-led approach, manager Ignacio “Nacho” Ambriz should be able to maintain his team’s status as contenders in the Apertura. The acquisition of dual-national and Liga MX champion right-back Mauricio Isais could also be one the smarter signings of the offseason.

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Liga MX Apertura preview: How will Chivas, Club América fare?