Liga MX: Club America, Monterrey clinch top playoff spots as regular season concludes

The Liga MX regular season has now officially finished with the playoffs up next, leaving six teams knocked out of the running for the title chase.

For those remaining, the top four in the league table will automatically qualify for the quarterfinal playoff stage, while spots five through 12 will battle it out in a preliminary single-leg play-in (repechaje) round this weekend. After that, the two-legged quarterfinals will then begin next week.

In case you missed the final weekend of the regular season, here's a quick wrap-up on those invited to the Liguilla, those missing out and additional notes from Week 17.

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America top ahead of Monterrey, Santos, Pachuca

After four separate teams climbed the top, Club America took the No. 1 spot in the league table after Week 12, never letting go of the position through the end of the regular season. On Friday night, the 2-1 win over Puebla not only solidified a whopping 38 points for the league leaders, but also extended Las Aguilas' undefeated streak to 12 games.

Manager Fernando Ortiz and his players remain the title favorites, but the coach made it clear that it won't be easy in the Liguilla.

"The 12th qualified team has the same opportunity as us in first place," Ortiz said after the result against Puebla. "Starting Monday afternoon, you have to prepare differently [for the playoffs]."

Just three points behind Club America is second-place Monterrey. Although a 0-0 draw with Pachuca wasn't the most thrilling end to the regular season, it did highlight how well the team has done defensively with their ninth shutout of the Apertura. Led by veteran coach Victor Manuel Vucetich, Los Rayados will be another title contender to follow in the playoffs.

Santos Laguna finished as the No. 3 playoff seed after defeating Mazatlan 3-0 on Sunday evening. Led by a brace from Javier Correa, Los Guerreros have concluded the Liga MX regular season as the joint top goal scorers (along with Club America) with 38.

Last but not least from the top four is Pachuca. Were it not for a great game in net from Monterrey's back line and goalkeeper Esteban Andrada, Los Tuzos could have easily walked away with a win and a spot at third or second in the table. Nonetheless, they've avoided the play-in round and will have plenty of time to rest league-leading goal scorer Nicolas Ibaรฑez, who found the back of the net 11 times in the Apertura.

Tigres, Cruz Azul cruising; Toluca sneaks in

Inconsistently bouncing back-and-forth from losses and victories, fifth-place Tigres closed out the season on a good note with a convincing 3-0 win over Atletico San Luis. Perhaps as a warning to upcoming play-in round opponent Necaxa, star striker Andre-Pierre Gignac collected a brace in Tigres' latest result, which included an assist from 21-year-old debutant Fernando Gonzalez.

As for 12th place Necaxa, they should count themselves lucky to be in the playoff conversation. Following a 1-0 loss to Atlas over the weekend, Necaxa tenuously held their Liguilla spot thanks to Atletico San Luis and Mazatlan stumbling in their own games.

Sixth-place Toluca had one of the bigger wins of the season -- possibly thanks to some eye-catching Dia de Muertos kits -- in their 4-1 result at home over Queretaro. With a move up the table, they'll now host 11th place FC Juarez, a side that were able to narrowly sneak over the playoff line with a 3-1 win over Pumas last Friday.

Cruz Azul are peaking at the right moment, claiming their fourth win in a row after defeating Chivas 2-1 on Saturday night. Sitting at seventh place, Los Cementeros will now host 10th-place Leon in the play-in round. On paper, Leon should be happy to be back in the playoffs after missing out in the 2022 Clausura, but a worrisome 2-2 draw against Club Tijuana on Sunday (which took away their chance to host a play-in round match) won't do much to help morale.

Eighth-place Puebla earned just their third loss of the season against Club America, but considering how strenuous they made it for the top playoff seed, the 2-1 defeat has some silver linings ahead of their play-in matchup against ninth place Chivas.

Chivas' roller-coaster regular season has finished with the 2-1 defeat by Cruz Azul that pushed them to three losses in a row, making Chivas the only playoff-bound team without a single point in their last three. Manager Ricardo Cadena brushed away any notion that a crisis is building, while also admitting after the weekend's result that "nobody is comfortable with the feeling of consecutive losses."

Atlas out, but Cocca gets fond farewell

Atlas also had nothing to play for with playoff spots out of reach, although you wouldn't have been able to guess that based on the party atmosphere at the Estadio Jalisco in their 1-0 victory over Necaxa. In front of a packed and boisterous crowd, Atlas fans had an emotional farewell to manager Diego Cocca, who led them to stunning back-to-back titles but couldn't do enough to hold his job as the Guadalajara-based side finished in 17th place and missed out on the playoffs this season.

Right above them in the 16th place were Pumas, who had little motivation in their 3-1 loss to FC Juarez. The run-up to the game saw the curious headline of the team apologizing to Dani Alves after mistakenly announcing that the Brazil international had suffered a ligament injury in his right knee. However, the 39-year-old moved to reassure fans on social media that he has not picked up a serious knock.

In other results, Club Tijuana prayed for a victory and miracle to qualify for the playoffs, needing at least five goals against Leon. After shuffling to a 2-2 draw, the bordertown team finished in 15th place. Mazatlan also had a chance to sneak into the playoffs with only a win needed in the final weekend, but ultimately struggled in the one-sided loss to Santos Laguna that held them to 14th place. Atletico San Luis had a fighting chance to qualify for the playoffs, but came up just short with two consecutive losses to close out the Apertura in 13th place, including the 3-0 defeat by Tigres.

Finally, we close out with 18th-place Queretaro, who fittingly finished at the bottom of the standings. Their 4-1 loss not only secured a place at the bottom of the table, but also gave them the unfortunate recognition of being the Liga MX team with the most goals allowed (35) this season.