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What you need to know about Club León

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Whether you’re looking to root for or against Landon Donovan and his new team, this is your primer to Liga MX and Club León.

MLS Soccer - Los Angeles Galaxy v Montreal Impact Photo by Shaun Clark/Getty Images

With Landon Donovan signing for Club León in Mexico, there’s bound to be an influx of new fans to both La Fiera and Liga MX. This is a great thing for the league, because it means having more people enjoying one of the most fun leagues in the world.

But let’s say you’re brand new to Liga MX. Here’s what you need to know whether or not you’re rooting for the Greatest American Hero or coming simply to root against Landycakes.

A brief primer

There are 18 teams in Liga MX, and each FIFA calendar year is split into two torneo (tournaments) - the Apertura (opening, which runs from August through December) and the Clausura (closing, which runs from January through June). Each team plays each other once a torneo, alternating home and away once a year.

Playoffs?

Yes. The top eight seeds play one another. The quarterfinals and semifinals are a home and home aggregate with a twist: if it’s tied after 180 minutes, the higher seed team automatically advances. The final is a home and home aggregate that does go into extra time and penalties.

Monterrey v Tigres UANL - Final Torneo Apertura 2017 Liga MX
When a club wins the Liga MX championship, they engrave the trophy on the field.
Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images

Promotion and relegation?

Yes, although there’s a bit of a twist. There’s a tabla de descenso (table of descent) which tracks teams’ average points over the past three years. The team with the lowest average of points over those three years is relegated at the end of the Clausura. Ostensibly to allow new teams a chance to stabilize and stay up, it does have it’s drawbacks, but that’s another column for another day. Promotion comes from the Ascenso MX, and the Apertura and Clausura winners play each other in a playoff for promotion.

So tell me about León

León was founded in 1943 and was most recently promoted back in 2012, after an 11 year stint in the Ascenso. They’re located in the city of León, which is right smack in the center of Mexico. It’s about a five hour drive from Mexico City. León is known as La Fiera - the beast - as well as Los Esmeraldas - the emeralds, for their emerald green uniforms. Their colors are green, white, and yellow.

Atlas v Leon - Torneo Clausura 2018 Liga MX
Elías Hernández has represented Mexico in international play.
Photo by Juan Mejia/Jam Media/Getty Images

Are they good?

They’ve been pretty formidable lately. They won back to back torneos (Apertura 2013 and Clausura 2014) and finished seventh in the 2017 Apertura, losing to eventual campeones (champions) Tigres by virtue of Tigres having a higher seed after it was tied after the home and home series.

Who else would I know that plays on León?

William Yarbrough is a Mexican-American goalkeeper who has featured for the United States National Team. They recently signed Jamaican international Giles Barnes, who played for several teams in MLS - most recently with Orlando City. Elías Hernández plays for Mexico’s National Team, as has Luis Montes.

Leon v Pachuca - Torneo Apertura 2017 Liga MX
Born in Mexico to American parents, William Yarbrough has been capped by the United States on three occasions.
Photo by Leopoldo Smith/Getty Images

Who else should I know that plays on León?

Argentine striker Mauro Boselli has played for Argentina before, but not since 2011. Still it’s hard to get time behind Lionel Messi, Sergio Agüero, and Javier Mascherano, and Boselli is a formidable player. He lead Liga MX in goals in the 2017 Clausura with 11 (tied with Monterrey’s Avilés Hurtado) and has over 130 total in Liga MX since arriving in 2013.

Donovan is a scrub - I’m just here to hate on him

León has a burgeoning rivalry with Club Tijuana, dating back to when Xolos (Tijuana’s mascot is a xoloitzcuintle - a hairless dog) beat León in the promotion final in 2011. Tijuana also beat León in 2014 to prevent them from making the playoffs and going for their third straight championship. These teams will play each other in León in late April.

Tijuana v Leon - Torneo Apertura 2017 Liga MX
Tijuana and León’s rivalry is fairly new but has seen some fantastic matches.
Photo by Fausto Vargas/Jam Media/Getty Images

León also has a rivalry with Pachuca, mostly due to the fact that both clubs are owned by Grupo Pachuca. Pachuca is known as Tuzos (gophers), and they have United States National Team and former LA Galaxy center back Omar Gonzalez as well as former AC Milan midfielder Keisuke Honda. They’re set to face each other on February 24th.

Do I need to speak Spanish?

It helps but it isn’t necessary. All of the games are broadcast on Univision Deportes, but if you’ve ever watched a less-than-legal stream of an EPL match you know how little you’re missing out on by not understanding thr commentary. Besides, there is plenty of good English language coverage of Liga MX (imcluding this site, although I may be a bit boased). Search for #ligamxeng on social media to find great articles from places like ESPN, Goal.com, and other outlets.

Any questions? Let us know in the comments section below!