Club soccer officially returns to Mexico on Thursday when the 2021-22 Liga MX campaign will reignite the domestic calendar promising its usual thrills, spills and top-level talent. León enter the Apertura season as titleholders, but 2021 Clausura winners Cruz Azul will seek to become the first club to complete a calendar sweep since Pumas UNAM in 2004.
What TV Channel is Liga MX on?
TUDN remains the go-to hub for all of Liga MX’s major matchups, with five of the Apertura’s opening weekend fixtures available via the channel. You can live stream Liga MX matches on fuboTV.
2021-22 Liga MX Apertura – Week 1
Thursday, July 22
Querétaro vs. América – 10 p.m. ET, TUDN, UniMas
Friday, July 23
Necaxa vs. Santos Laguna – 8 p.m. ET, TUDN
Juárez vs. Toluca – 10 p.m. ET, TUDN
Saturday, July 24
Pachuca vs. León – 5 p.m. ET, TUDN
Chivas Guadalajara vs. Atlético San Luis – 10 p.m. ET
Sunday, July 25
Pumas UNAM vs. Atlas – 1 p.m. ET, TUDN
Monterrey vs. Puebla – 8 p.m. ET
Tijuana vs. Tigres UANL – 10 p.m. ET
Monday, July 26
Cruz Azul vs. Mazatlán – 9 p.m. ET
Regular-Season Start: July 22
Regular-Season End: November 7
Grand Final: December 12
Cruz Azul Reign King
A major part of Liga MX’s appeal is the fact it’s so difficult to keep one’s place on the throne, with back-to-back title wins much rarer than many of its European counterparts. Cruz Azul were deservedly crowned kings of the Clausura in May following an indomitable run at the top of the table, beating Santos Laguna 2-1 over two legs to end their 24-year wait for league silverware.
Just in case faith in Juan Reynoso’s credentials had waned in the interim months, La Máquina recently beat León 2-1 in the Campeón de Campeones to underline they are very much still a force to be reckoned with. Santiago Ormeño’s consolation wasn’t enough to overturn a Jonathan Rodriguez brace, highlighting the latter Uruguayan also remains a man in form ahead of the new season:
León clinched back-to-back silverware when they followed up their 2013 Apertura title with a Clausura triumph in 2014, but no club has won both league campaigns in the same calendar year since Pumas in 2004. Reynoso’s men have lost just one of their last 26 games in all competitions and have earned a right to be considered favorites for another trophy, but heavy is the head that wears the crown..
Managers on the Move
No Liga MX off-season would be complete without some movement between opposition dugouts, but this year’s batch of managerial changes could prove more seismic than most. Arguably the most significant of the lot saw Ricardo Ferretti end his third, 11-year stint with Tigres UANL to take over at Juarez, who are after big improvement after a 16th-place finish in the last Clausura.
His replacement at the Estadio Universitario is just as notable, with Miguel Herrera re-entering the Liga MX sphere after he was sacked as América boss in December. Pre-season omens looked poor after Tigres drew and lost to Guadalajara and Herrera’s last club, respectively, without scoring a goal, though they since got off the ground with a 3-1 friendly win over Austin FC.
Tigres will be hard-pressed to hit the league campaign running, however, after Owen Diana pointed out two of their key attackers will be away on Tokyo 2020 duty for the beginning:
Mazatlán also parted ways with Tomás Boy and brought in Spaniard Beñat San José following his two-year stint with Belgian club Eupen, while Atletico San Luis swapped Leonel Rocco for Uruguayan compatriot Marcelo Méndez. Argentina’s Ariel Holan is also poised for his first senior managerial role outside of South America and replaces Ignacio Ambriz at León three months after a controversial exit from Brazilian giants Santos:
Ones to Watch
The flow of bright, up-and-coming attacking talents coming through Liga MX remains steady, with a few noteworthy names entering the Apertura as a key phase in their development. Two in particular hoping to build on successful 12-month periods are Santos striker Eduardo Aguirre and Cruz Azul counterpart Santiago Gimenez.
Despite being just 20 years of age, Gimenez is already a league champion and scored six times in 40 appearances across the previous Apertura and Clausura campaigns. Aguirre, 22, slightly bettered that ratio with eight strikes in 36 outings across both competitions, and it seems only a matter of time before the centre-forward earns his full debut for Mexico on his current trajectory:
At the other end of the field, Guadalajara center-back Gilberto Sepúlveda is looking to make that next step after cementing his place as a key figure under Victor Manuel Vucetich last term. Already four caps into his career with El Tri, there’s a good chance we’re seeing a future leader of the national team emerging in Jalisco, with the 22-year-old embodying that never-say-die attitude one needs among the rearguard:
In midfield, Pachuca playmaker Erick Sánchez will be watched with great interest for the remainder of 2021. The 21-year-old is no longer an unknown with 70 senior appearances for the club under his belt, but the 2021 Clausura was a breakthrough moment for the central starlet, scoring four of his five career goals in those 17 regular-season outings.