Rayados claim top seed; Round of 16 taking shape

Felix Torres (left) of Santos and Jose Abella (right) put pressure on Chivas forward Alexis Vega during their Aug. 7 Copa MX match in Guadalajara. (Photo by Alfredo Moya/Jam Media/Getty Images)
Felix Torres (left) of Santos and Jose Abella (right) put pressure on Chivas forward Alexis Vega during their Aug. 7 Copa MX match in Guadalajara. (Photo by Alfredo Moya/Jam Media/Getty Images) /

The Copa MX knockout stage is all but set with just three group stage games remaining and one spot in the Round of 16 still available.

Just one spot remains for the Round of 16 in the all-new Copa MX with the knockout stage set to take place during the Clausura 2020 season.

There are three games left in the group stage and all three will impact the seedings for the Round of 16 with the Celaya-Necaxa match deciding who will claim the final spot.

If Necaxa wins, they will reach the knockout stage, and the same is true for Celaya who would be the fourth Ascenso MX team in the Round of 16 if they defeat the Rayos. If the Celaya-Necaxa match ends in a draw, Veracruz will claim the 16th and final spot. The two teams played to a scoreless draw at Necaxa on Sept. 4 in their earlier Group 6 match.

In addition to the win-or-go-home scenario that will play out at the Estadio Miguel Alemán Valdés, Wednesday’s two other group stage games will have a direct impact on the Round of 16 bracket.

In Group 7, the Chivas visit Santos Laguna needing only a draw to clinch first place, and with a win Guadalajara will claim a favorable seeding (either No. 6, 7 or 8). If Santos wins, the Guerreros will take first place in the group and the Chivas would see their seeding reduced to No. 11 or lower. The Chivas defeated Santos in Guadalajara on Aug. 7 in their earlier group stage match.

In a Group 9 match, Atlas visits Pachuca with a chance to win the group, while the host Tuzos will only need a tie. Both teams have already clinched spots in the knockout round which begins on Jan. 21.

In Tuesday’s Copa MX matches, Puebla and Sonora were eliminated from contention after settling for a scoreless draw at the Estadio Cuauhtémoc. Both teams have 2 points in Group 1, well behind group winner Morelia (12 points).

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In Group 2, Monterrey trounced the Cafetaleros of Chiapas 6-0 to sneak away with the No. 1 seed. The Rayados completed the group stage with 12 points and a +9 goal differential to surpass Toluca who finished their group play with “only” a +7 differential. Despite the loss, the Cafetaleros are in the Round of 16 though they are likely to be stuck with the No. 15 seed (and thus, a match-up with Toluca).

In Cancún, visiting Mérida defeated rival Ascenso MX side Atlante with a late goal to climb into the No. 9 seed pending Wednesday’s results. The Venados finished with 7 points in Group 3, trailing FC Juárez (10 points).

In a Group 4 match, Veracruz flubbed their chance to clinch the final Round of 16 spot by settling for a 1-1 draw in Oaxaca. The Tiburones now have 4 points but either Necaxa (2 points) or Celaya (1 point) can leapfrog Veracruz with a win.

The 2019-2020 Copa MX is being played under a new “annual” format. The Copa MX was renewed in 2012 after being shelved in 1997 and there were two Cup tournaments each year, coinciding with the Liga MX short-season format.

This summer, Liga MX officials responded to complaints that there were too many games and installed the “annual” format. The group stage is now played during the Apertura season and the knockout stage is held during the subsequent Clausura season. The knockout stage was also adapted and each round is determined by a home-and-home format, using aggregate score to determine who advances. The away-goal rule is in effect until the Final.

Defending champion América is not a participant in this year’s tournament since they will be participating in the Concacaf Champions League tournament.