Pumas is 4 points clear of the rest of the table as we head into the last third of the Mexican Clausura tournament. If they end up on top of the table, it will be the first time they have done so since 1990-91. Oddly enough, they have only finished atop the league table three times, yet they have won 6 championships, all in the “liguilla” era (post 1971). The liguilla agrees with Pumas.
Since FMF went to the two-season season, though, finishing atop the table is about the worst way to enter the post-season. In the 29 previous tourneys, 13 number one seeds have gone one (two, really) and done. Usually it’s not even close. The average aggregate score in the losses is 4.8 to 2.4. The first short season table topper, Atlante in 1996, set a dubious standard. They were clobbered 9-2 on aggregate in the quarter finals. Thus la maldicion del puntero was born.
Followers of the more established teams are quick to point out that the majority of championships won by both Toluca and Pachuca have all come during the two-season era. It is interesting to note, however, that only 5 top seeds have gone wire to wire in the short season era. Toluca has done it three times and Pachuca twice.
Cruz Azul fans have to absolutely dread their team’s success during any given season. They have finished the season in first on four separate occasions, and each of those seasons ended with a loss in the quarterfinal round of the Liguilla. The most recent was last year’s late second half hand-ball in the box. Pumas cashed in the spot kick to eliminate the cementeros. A pox on thee.
Of course, the prime beneficiaries of this top seed curse are the next highest seeds. The 2 and 3 seeds have combined to win 3/4 of the remaining 24 titles, with the 2nd seed collecting 11 of those trophies.
So if Pumas has a little late season stumble, and they slide down into the number two hole for the post-season, I may not mind so much.
Particularly if Cruz Azul takes the top spot.
And for the record, Pumas is 2 for 3 when they enter the liguilla as a top seed.