Cesar Huerta and Robert Ergas
Cesar Huerta and Robert Ergas celebrate a goal for Pumas Pumas MX's Facebook Page

ALABAMA. - A new Liga MX champion will be crowned this month. Club América, Tigres UANL, Atlético San Luis and Pumas UNAM will compete this week for a spot in this year's Apertura 2023 final. Two of the most popular teams in Mexican soccer, América and Pumas, will draw a lot of attention from Mexican and U.S. market alike.

Club América's current drought of almost 5 years without a league title seems like a make-or-break deal for important figures in the 'Azulcrema' camp, including newly arrived coach André Jardine. In his first tournament at the helm, he guided the 'Águilas' to a 1st-place finish during the regular season and the club's highest point-tally (40) in the short tournament era since collecting 43 points during the Apertura 2002.

América has not surpassed the Liga MX semifinal round since losing the Apertura 2019 final to Monterrey. In fact, the almost 5-year wait without a league title is its longest since an 8-year drought between 2005 and 2013.

It won't be easy for the 'Azulcremas' to reach yet another Liga MX final, since Atlético San Luis had a solid Apertura 2023, finishing in 7th place, their highest-ever Liga MX finish since rejoining the league as a new franchise under new ownership.

Atlético San Luis will host América on Thursday during the first leg of the Semifinal clash. Only in one previous instance has a team based from state San Luis Potosí played in the final. It happened during the Clausura 2006 tournament, when San Luis Fútbol Club came short of the title after losing 1-0 against Pachuca.

Pumas and Tigres will face off in the other side of the bracket, a clash that has become a playoff rivalry in the past few years. Reigning Liga MX champions Tigres are looking to become just the 4th team in the short tournament era (since 1996) to win back-to-back league titles.

Consecutive Liga MX titles – Short tournament era (since 1996)
Pumas: Clausura 2004 and Apertura 2004
Club León: Apertura 2013 and Clausura 2014
Atlas: Apertura 2021 and Clausura 2022

This will be the 4th time Pumas and Tigres face each other in the Liga MX playoffs since 2015-16, with Tigres advancing in two of the previous ties and Pumas defeating their feline counterparts during the Apertura 2018.

Tigres defeated Pumas 4-2 on penalties during the Apertura 2015 final, one of the most dramatic finals in Liga MX history

André-Pierre Gignac, Tigres' main man and record goal scorer, comes into the matchup with 17 goals against Pumas, his most against a single opponent since arriving to Mexican soccer in 2015. He is also looking for his 6th Liga MX title, which would help him in move up spots in the conversation of the best foreign players to ever grace Liga MX. Since Gignac's arrival, Tigres has played in 8 semifinal ties and advanced in 6 occasions.

After a couple of years full of struggles and bad results, Pumas is back in the Liga MX playoffs, snapping a streak of four tournaments without a "Liguilla" spot. For the first time in 3 years, Pumas ended up in the top half of the table and had the 3rd-best defensive record in the regular season (18 goals against).

This will be a perfect opportunity for Antonio Mohamed's team to put Pumas back in the title-contender conversation. Mohamed arrived to Pumas in March of this year and completely transformed the club. Pumas already defeated Tigres this season (2-1 victory) and eliminated Guadalajara in the Quarterfinals thanks to a convincing 3-0 win over Chivas in the second leg.

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