Soccer For Dummies

As the World Cup approaches, here are some basics to help get you through

Football or soccer hasn’t set the States alight yet, but it is the number one sport down here south of the border and throughout the majority of both the civilized and uncivilized world. Also, 2018 is World Cup year, albeit without the American team who lost in the playoffs. Mexico, on the other hand, has made it to the finals in Russia, so we’ve put together a guide to help you root for your adopted home.

The top division, Liga MX, was founded in 1943 and consists of 18 teams. The season is divided into two: the apertura (opening) and the clausura (closing). In the aperture, the teams all play each other once, and the top eight teams go to a playoff round to determine the champions of the first half of the season. The whole process is then repeated in the second half of the season, the only difference being that the locations are reversed, so whoever had the home field advantage the first time around will now travel to their opponent’s ground. The clausura champions then play the winners of the aperture, with the victorious team being declared the champions of all of Mexico. If the same team happens to win both phases, they automatically win the title.

Now if you think that is complicated, wait until I explain the relegation to you! In fact, it could take days, so let’s just say that the team with the worst record over the last three years gets dropped down to the Mexican second division, called the Ascenso MX (ascending). You’re getting the hang off this, aren’t you? They are then replaced by the second-tier champions, who are established in much the same way as the Liga MX winners.

The two most successful teams in Mexico are Club America, who are based in Mexico City, and Club Deportivo Guadalajara, who are based in—well, I’m going to assume you can work that one out for yourself. They are the only two teams that have been ever-present in the top division of Mexican football since the league’s official formation in 1943. They spookily have exactly the same record of being crowned champions 12 times and runners up nine, and both teams’ nicknames are related to animals. America’s is Las Agüilas (The Eagles) and Guadalajara’s is Las Chivas (The Goats). The team from the Jalisco capital is unique in that they only field Mexican nationals in their team.

Keeping the animal nickname/mascot theme running, the only team based on the West Coast is Club Tijuana, also known as Los Xolos, after the Mexican hairless dog xoloitzcuintli, which was considered sacred dogs by the Aztecs, Toltecs and Mayans. The xolos breed is not widely known north of the border, leading to them to be mistaken for the mythical chupacabra on many occasions.

Liga Mx draws the 3rd highest attendance of any professional sports league in North America, only behind the National Football League and Major League Baseball. It’s also the 4th most attended soccer league worldwide, with an average attendance in excess of 26,000, only behind the three powerhouses of England, Germany, and Spain.

In an unusually organized way for Mexico, each team always plays their home league game on the same day at the same time. So let’s say you decided to follow the current champions, the Tigres of Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León, thankfully known as Tigres UANL for short. They currently always play their home games on Saturday night at 7pm. Well nearly always—for the last game of the regular season, all the teams are required to play on Sunday during prime viewing hours.

I mentioned at the beginning of the article that the event regarded as the biggest sporting event on the planet will take place this year, with Russia hosting 32 competing nations. The tournament will run from June 14th to July 15th.  All teams are guaranteed at least three games, with the first round of games being in a mini-league format. Each group is made up of four teams. Mexico are in group F and will face off against reigning champions Germany, Sweden and South Korea.

Now there are many theories as to why soccer has not really taken off in the States like it has in many other countries. One that I have come up with is the commentators. I have listened to American commentators, and they just don’t understand the beauty of the game. It would be like me trying to narrate your beloved NFL (I am English).

So, with that in mind here is my suggestion for getting the maximum enjoyment for somebody new to soccer watching a game on TV. Go to a bar with Spanish commentary, especially one of Mexico games in the World Cup, and you will be swept up by the emotion and the commentators cry of “gooooool!” If you would prefer to see a game with the commentary in English, try and find a bar with Sky Sports, as they often use English presenters to call the game and, as we invented the game, I guarantee this will give you better insight into what is happening on the field of play.

Finally, remember that like all sports not every clash is a classic, so give the world’s number one sport at least two chances to impress you. ,