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Final week of Liga MX season sets up competitive playoff schedule

MEXICO CITY -- The Apertura 2018 regular season has officially ended in Mexico. Ten teams can officially look toward the Clausura 2019 and take advantage of the postseason to jump on transfers and all kinds of roster moves, while the remaining eight will fight for the league crown. Here's what we learned in Week 17:

- Final Liga MX standings | Playoff Schedule | Playoff Power Rankings

1. The most competitive playoffs in recent memory

Eighth-seeded Queretaro needed 26 points to make the Apertura 2018 playoffs. Last season, Morelia got into the Clausura 2018 postseason in the same spot with just 24, a threshold ten teams matched or surpassed this time around. There was also more parity this season, with just a ten-point difference between first-placed Cruz Azul and the Gallos Blancos. For the first time in a while, it certainly seems as if the top teams are a bit better matched than in recent seasons.

2. Another foreign Golden Boot

Quick, name the last Mexican to win the scoring title in Mexico. If you said Angel Reyna, you're correct. Reyna's 13 goals for Club America led the league in the Clausura 2011. Since then, it's been a foreign monologue at the top of the Golden Boot race. With 14 goals, Andre-Pierre Gignac claimed his second trophy, and a chance to win another title as Tigres marches on to the playoffs.

3. Colombia claims top assist crown

Dorlan Pabon delivered a whopping nine assists in the Apertura to stake his claim as the league's best facilitator in front of goal. Pabon has transitioned from becoming a finisher to becoming one of Mexico's top creators. Behind him, Elias Hernandez led all Mexican players with six assists, while Tigres' Javier Aquino notched five of his own.

4. Club America, top team in attack

With an average of nearly two goals per match, Club America was the highest-scoring team in Mexico this season with 33 goals in 17 games. The Aguilas' top scorer was Oribe Peralta with five goals, while seven other players on the team scored at least three times, making the squad's attack a balanced affair.

5. Cruz Azul is the league's best defense

Jose de Jesus Corona claimed eight clean sheets in the Apertura 2018 en route to leading his club to the best defense in the league, with just 13 goals allowed. The staunchness in front of goal led them to 11 victories this season, most in the league.

The playoff matchups are set, with Tigres and Pumas squaring off in the quarterfinal round.

6. Playoff matchups set

Cruz Azul will face Queretaro in the matchup between first and eighth place. Though this might seem the most lopsided of all the four series, Queretaro was one of just three teams that beat La Maquina this season. America will take on Toluca, a team they were unable to beat only a few weeks ago, managingonly a 1-1 draw. Pumas, who finished third, will take on Tigres, sixth, and a dark horse candidate to win the league. Finally, defending champions Santos Laguna will play Monterrey in a battle reminiscent of the earlier part of this decade, when both teams faced off multiple times with titles on the line. 

7. Three out of four big clubs are still alive...

... And the fourth, Chivas, finished eleventh with just 20 points. The team has now missed the postseason for the third consecutive season. Though the team had moments through the season in which it looked to right the ship, the debut campaign with Jose Cardozo at the helm ended in disappointment. Signings to bolster the team look to be on the way, however, with Hiram Mier and Marcel Ruiz reportedly a few days away from being confirmed.

8. Attendance is down

Only four of the 18 teams in Liga MX reported an uptick in attracting fans to their games this season. The biggest jump came from Cruz Azul, who moved back to the roomy Estadio Azteca after 22 years at the Estadio Azul. Club America, Leon and Santos Laguna were the only others who reported more attention from fans. Meanwhile, seven teams, including Chivas, reported a drop in more than 20 percent in attendance, a worrying trend the league will surely devote some amount of attention to.

9. Relegation battle will rage in '19

Five teams (Monterrey, Club America, Tigres, Toluca and Tijuana) are officially safe heading into the Clausura 2019, while Lobos BUAP (who were themselves saved last season) and Veracruz will battle to the end due to their low positions in the relegation table. Other clubs, like Atlas and Puebla, will also factor into the discussion, especially if they cannot generate enough points early on in the next portion of the season.

10. Maradona in Liga MX?

Speaking of relegation and promotion, Diego Maradona's Dorados de Sinaloa have officially qualified to the Apertura 2018 final in the Ascenso MX. Should they win it, the Argentine legend's team will have secured at least a promotion final in early 2019 to make the jump to the first division. Standing in their way this season is Atletico San Luis, the team backed by Spanish giants Atletico Madrid.

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