Two years ago, Tijuana Xolos were promoted to the top flight of Mexican football and put together an up-and-down, but mostly impressive first year in the first division. This year, they're in Liguilla as second-placed finishers in the regular season. Club Leon won promotion last year, and was comfortably in Liguilla weeks ago. Both hold tiebreakers in the first round as they attempt to navigate a loaded playoff field.
The Apertura's superliders, who don't have to deal with a freshly-broken curse, are Toluca. They're all the way back from their post-Chepo departure decline, and will look to repeat Santos Laguna's feat of leading the regular season, then winning Liguilla in the last tournament.
In the first match of the quarterfinals, Leon goes away to Cruz Azul, who have done well despite losing Pablo Barrera to a season-ending injury a couple of months ago. Late on Wednesday, Monarcas Morelia and Club America face off as both look to make a run towards the title that has eluded them in recent seasons, despite their strong rosters and deep Liguilla runs. Tijuana heads to Monterrey on Thursday, while Toluca takes on Chivas Guadalajara, who sneaked into the playoffs with a late-season run after a horrid start.
This season, the rules have changed in the Liguilla playoffs. Liga MX now uses away goals as the first tiebreaker in the quarterfinals, but the seed tiebreaker has not gone away. In the event of a tie on aggregate and away goals, the higher seed will still progress to the next round.
First legs schedule (all times ET)
Cruz Azul vs. Club Leon - Wednesday, 8 p.m.
Monarcas Morelia vs. Club America - Wednesday, 10 p.m.
Monterrey vs. Club Tijuana - Thursday, 8 p.m.
Chivas Guadalajara vs. Toluca - Thursday, 10 p.m.