As reported over the previous weeks by various sources, the infamous ‘Repechaje’ or Wild Card system will return to the Mexican Football playoffs. This once regular system existed mainly over the course of the 1990s and 2000s when Liga MX was still divided into groups at the start of each season. If a third or fourth place did better than a second or third in another group, those two battled it out in a home-and-home series to see who was more deserving of the Quarter-Final stage. There were never more than four teams involved, only and if it was needed.
Yesterday, TV Azteca’s David Medrano reported that the new Repechaje system will differ a bit regarding two aspects: First off, it will now be applied directly to the league table standings, and not the old group system that Liga MX once had; second, there will be a single-elimination match between the teams involved.
Here is how the new system would work: The top 4 places in the league table would advance directly to the Quarter-Finals. Places 5 through 12 would battle it out in a single-elimination match (5 vs. 12, 6 vs. 11, 7 vs. 10, 8 vs. 9), the week following the conclusion of the regular season. In other words, the regular season ends on a Sunday, so places 1 through 4 get the week off, while the eight wild-cards each play on a different day, according to Medrano, from Thursday to Sunday. Once we have all four winners, they’ll be ordered from highest to lowest, and that is how we will reach the Quarter-Final phase. That means that the 12th seeded team (just above the lower third in the table) could reach the Quarter-Final. Hilarious.
Why is the league making this change? Not too difficult to understand. Much like all other decisions, four extra games where there’ll be selling tickets, advertising, etc., means more money for the league and everybody involved. And while it’s understandable that this is a business and must rely on income and having a stable economic department, it’s sad to see when it affects the competition aspect to that degree.
It’s unheard of to see a 12th ranked team out of a total of 18 have a chance to move on to the next round and compete for the title. Just as a reminder, the 12th seed usually ends up with around 20 points, give or take. 20 points in a 17-game schedule always accounts for more losses than victories. So, you’re giving a losing team who is almost in the lower third of the table a chance to knock off the team who has the best performance in the season, in a simple home-and-home series where, as we all know, anything can happen.
In every sports league, there must be a certain level of demand and success for what team is qualified to reach the playoffs. To me, that limit is ending up in the top half of the table in the very least, and that is stretching it. How can you reward a lower third team with a possible playoff run? It’s absolutely unheard of and even groan-worthy if it were a joke. But the joke here is that it isn’t a joke. It’s real.
The decisions that league officials are making to adjust and change the league don’t cease to amaze. Decision after decision where they blatantly show their true interests, while clearly disregarding any for true sport competitiveness and result fairness as well. Pretty much any team has the chance to make a playoff run now. One thing is for certain though: Liga MX will achieve their goal of keeping more fans interested up until the end of the season. Unfortunately, it isn’t being done the right way.