Liga MX Apertura preview: Best- and worst-case scenario for each team
MEXICO CITY -- European league seasons may still a few weeks away and transfer sagas the topic of the day, but Liga MX comes back with the opening weekend of the 2019 Apertura.
How will your team do and what are the best and worst scenarios for the expanded field of 19 this season?
The 2018 Apertura champion, Copa MX holder, Campeon de Campeones winner and semifinalists in the Clausura. America will once again start the season as one of the favorites. The big questions for Miguel Herrera's side concern whether Giovani dos Santos can make an impact in his debut season, how it will cope without Edson Alvarez and whether Guido Rodriguez will stay or head off to Europe.
Best scenario: Champion.
Worst: A slow start, due to players coming in late from international duty, Rodriguez and Alvarez leaving, Dos Santos not fitting, which leads to Herrera imploding like he did after the 2015 Gold Cup and the side struggling to make the playoffs.
FiveThirtyEight predictions: 84 percent make playoffs, 19 percent to win Apertura
The Clausura 2019 champions have not done much at all in the transfer market, although the quality of Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti's team spoke for itself last season as it claimed Clausura glory.
Best scenario: Tigres lift the title once again.
Worst: Losing to Monterrey or America in the playoffs.
FiveThirtyEight predictions: 83 percent to make the playoffs, 18 percent to win Apertura
Diego Alonso's project led to the CONCACAF Champions League, but Monterrey fans are desperate for a first Liga MX title since 2010. Once again, Rayados go into the season as one of the favorites, but the prospect of Rodolfo Pizarro leaving for Europe and a big-name center-forward arriving means unknowns remain.
Best scenario: Monterrey fights off competition from Tigres, America and Cruz Azul to win the title, ideally by getting past city rival Tigres at some point in the playoffs.
Worst: Rayados fall out of the playoffs at the quarterfinal stage, with Alonso's pragmatic style, which hasn't always sat well with fans, heavily questioned and his future at the club becoming unstable.
FiveThirtyEight predictions: 82 percent to make playoffs, 17 percent to win Apertura
La Maquina has gotten stronger with the incorporation of Paraguay international defender Juan Escobar and "Pol" Fernandez, who was a key creative player in Racing's title win last season in Argentina.
Best scenario: The Mexico City club wins its first title since 1997, bringing one of Mexican football's most famous droughts to an end and bestowing legendary status on coach Pedro Caixinha, sporting director Ricardo Pelaez and the players.
Worst: Caixinha's penchant for having spats with the media and others leads to him getting fired and the season ending in disarray.
FiveThirtyEight predictions: 72 percent to make playoffs, 11 percent to win Apertura
Argentine Martin Palermo showed enough in his debut season in Mexico to suggest this could be a very interesting Apertura for Pachuca. Incoming Gustavo Cabral will bring experience in defense and experienced Jonathan Copete should bring goals, but Edwin Cardona is the key player for Pachuca and the season could depend on his form.
Best scenario: This Pachuca team has the ability to finish in the top four and make a run at the title, a little like Leon did last season.
Worst: An over-reliance on Cardona, who underperforms or gets injured, with Pachuca missing out on the liguilla.
FiveThirtyEight predictions: 64 percent to make the playoffs, 7 percent to win Apertura
Last season's regular season leader, finalist and all-round sensation, Leon has spent wisely in this summer window, bringing in Ismael Sosa, Leonardo Ramos and Jesus Godinez to deepen the team's attack.
Best scenario: Angel Mena is again the spark and coach Ignacio "Nacho" Ambriz and his team proves that the Clausura run was no fluke, with Leon going one step further and winning the title.
Worst scenario: The sense, backed up by data, that Leon played beyond its means last season is proved correct, opponents are more wily in facing it and Ambriz's team fail to rise above mid-table.
FiveThirtyEight predictions: 60 percent to make playoffs, 6 percent to win Apertura
The loss of starters Jesus Angulo, Hugo Nervo and Javier Correa -- all to sister club Atlas -- make Santos an unknown. Uruguayan midfielder Fernando Gorriaran and Ecuadorian center-back Felix Eduardo Torres are the most interesting new signings at a club that generally has a good record in the transfer market.
Best scenario: The criticism about sales to Atlas is proven unfounded as Santos make the playoffs and surprise a team or two in the postseason.
Worst: Finishing in the bottom half of the table
FiveThirtyEight predictions: 53 percent to make the playoffs, 5 percent to win Apertura
Ricardo La Volpe turned Toluca's Clausura season around after an abysmal start to almost reach the postseason and the Argentine will be hoping for a good start to the Apertura.
Best scenario: Toluca may not be a title favorite, but it shouldn't be discounted from the conversation given how tough it is to visit Estadio Nemesio Diez.
Worst: Another slow start puts pressure on La Volpe and Toluca miss out on the playoffs.
FiveThirtyEight predictions: 46 percent to make the playoffs, 4 percent to win Apertura
It's difficult to judge Tijuana's summer dealings, mainly because there have been so many players coming and going. Certainly, the loss of Gustavo Bou will hurt, even if it has been offset slightly by the signing of reliable Brazilian goal-scorer Camilo Sanvezzo. Full-back Vladimir Lorona, Washington Camacho and Leonel Mirando all promise to be useful signings.
Best scenario: Everything clicks early on and Oscar Pareja's side reaches the playoffs comfortably.
Worst: The upheaval from a busy summer means Tijuana starts slowly and ends mid-table.
FiveThirtyEight predictions: 38 percent to make playoffs, 3 percent to win Apertura
Chivas head into the season in penultimate place in the relegation table, but have been bolstered by defense signings Oswaldo Alanis and Antonio Briseno. Coach Tomas Boy can also count on Oribe Peralta to be a leader in the locker room and bring some much-needed goals.
Best scenario: Boy dispels the doubts over whether he's the right person to coach, with the new-look defense clicking and Chivas reaching the playoffs by playing attractive football.
Worst: The early schedule log-jam with ICC and Liga MX commitments brings a crisis at Chivas early on in the season. Guadalajara end up looking for a new coach and become embroiled in the relegation nightmare that has haunted the club in recent times.
FiveThirtyEight predictions: 37 percent to make playoffs, 3 percent to win Apertura
How to replace Brian Fernandez's goals and assists? It's a tough conundrum, but Necaxa has arguably been the shrewdest club in Mexico's transfer market over recent years. Guillermo Vazquez's side will be tough to beat, but a lot will depend on how much impact new signings Jairo Gonzalez, Ricardo Chavez, Jesus Angulo and Maximiliano Salas can have.
Best scenario: Vazquez has his players organized well, the newcomers settle quickly and Necaxa once against makes the postseason.
Worst: Fernandez cannot be replaced and Necaxa slide down the league table as a result.
FiveThirtyEight predictions: 35 percent to make playoffs, 2 percent to win Apertura
The arrival of Michel Gonzalez as head coach has brought a lift to a club in need of one and makes Pumas one of the most intriguing teams to follow this Apertura. New signings Nicolas Freire and Juan Pablo Vigon are solid, if unspectacular.
Best scenario: Michel injects belief into Pumas and the university club exceed expectations to reach the semifinals of the Apertura.
Worst: Another season fighting it out towards the bottom of the league table.
FiveThirtyEight predictions: 33 percent to make the playoffs, 2 percent to win Apertura
There's new ownership under Orlegi Sports and renewed hope for Los Rojinegros. Striker Javier Correa, defender Jesus Angulo, center-back Martin Nervo and goalkeeper Camilo Vargas are should be positive signings for rookie coach Leandro Cufre.
Best scenario: The change in ownership gives the whole club a lift, representing a fresh start for the Guadalajara club. The boost propels Atlas into the playoff battle.
Worst scenario: New owners, same old Atlas. The change represents a false dawn and the team fail to lift themselves from relegation problems.
FiveThirtyEight predictions: 27 percent playoffs, 1 percent to win
If striker Lucas Cavallini does leave for Cruz Azul or elsewhere in what remains of the transfer window, La Franja will struggle to find another center-forward with the same skill set and quality. Coach Jose Luis "Chelis" Sanchez Sola will likely to need to use his motivational and team-building skills to compensate for a squad that is firmly in the bottom half of the league in terms of talent.
Best scenario: "Chelis" works his magic like in previous stints at his hometown club and Puebla is at least in the playoff race.
Worst: The team scraps in the bottom few places in the table.
FiveThirtyEight predictions: 23 percent to make the playoffs, 1 percent to win Apertura
Just two wins last season was nowhere near good enough and there'll be pressure on incoming Venezuelan striker Fernando Aristeguieta to replace the goals Raul Ruidiaz once brought. Coach Javier Torrente will have the side running hard and playing attractive football, but there's not been an outpouring of signings to make you think that Morelia is going to have a great tournament.
Best scenario: Torrente inspires Morelia to the playoffs, as the collective performs above the expected level for this group of players.
Worst: Another season without the playoffs for a club that doesn't appear to have the resources to match the major players in Liga MX.
FiveThirtyEight predictions: 22 percent to make playoffs, 1 percent to win Apertura
Victor Manuel Vucetich provides a steady hand and Queretaro has a solid core, but the loss of goal machine Sanvezzo to Tijuana is a bitter blow in the lead up to the Apertura. Key will be Vucetich getting the most out of his young players and new-comers Jair Pereira, Alonso Escoboza, Fabian Castillo and Clifford Aboagye finding form quickly.
Best scenario: Homegrown players such as Marcel Ruiz and Paolo Yrizar break out in a major way and Queretaro manages to negotiate its way to the final playoff spot.
Worst: Queretaro struggles near the bottom of the table, with no-one able to replace the goals Sanvezzo has brought over recent years.
FiveThirtyEight predictions: 20 percent to make the playoffs, less than 1 percent to win Apertura
Atletico San Luis
Argentine Ricardo Centurion was a bold signing for the club owned by Atletico Madrid and recency-promoted San Luis represent an interesting addition to Liga MX, not least because it'll be the only foreign-owned club. Coach Alfonso Sosa, an expert in winning promotion, could really do with a solid start to the season given the history he's had of not being given time to turn things around at first division clubs.
Best scenario: San Luis starts well, Centurion puts his troubled past behind him to become the best signing of the summer, a couple of additional faces arrive before the transfer window closes and the Mexican Atleti cause some waves by scraping into the playoffs.
Worst: The squad falls short of Liga MX standards, Centurion causes unrest, Sosa is forced out and San Luis finishes in the bottom three places on its return to the first division.
FiveThirtyEight predictions: 9 percent, less than 1 percent
The border club may have got into Liga MX by slightly bizarre means -- via buying Lobos BUAP -- but there is a serious project at the heart of FC Juarez and it should be a good addition to the league. Paraguayan striker Dario Lezcano is the main new signing, but with over six new faces, Juarez is an unknown quantity heading into the season.
Best scenario: Fly out of the blocks and stun Liga MX by scraping into the playoffs.
Worst: The rushed nature of Juarez's entry to Liga MX is reflected in the results, with the newcomers finishing in the bottom two.
FiveThirtyEight predictions: 7 percent to make playoffs, less than 1 percent to win Apertura
Los Tiburones Rojos paid to stay in Liga MX, but has shown little ambition this summer, opting for experienced names like Angel Reyna, Abraham, Leobardo Lopez and Leiton Jimenez.
Best scenario: Veracruz shocks everyone and finishes outside of the bottom five places.
Worst: A repeat of last season, when Veracruz managed to finish with zero points from 17 game. Surely that can't happen again?
FiveThirtyEight predictions: 6 percent to make playoffs, less than 1 percent to win Apertura