MEXICO CITY (AP) – Mexico rebranded its first division the ''Liga MX'' to start the season, but the results have changed little. In fact, this season is producing more draws and fewer goals, which is probably not what organizers wanted.
The first half of Mexico's regular season wraps up this weekend and, through 16 rounds, 49 matches have ended as draws. It was 40 last season at this point. Goal scoring is down, too, averaging 2.47 per game going into the final weekend - the lowest since Mexico went to split seasons in 1996.
''The draws are because the league is so competitive and coaches know it is important to get points,'' said former Mexico national team coach Manuel Lapuente. ''The season is very short and if you go into a slump there is no room to recover.''
Like much of Latin America, Mexico plays a split season and crowns a champion for each one. Toluca and Tijuana are the leaders heading into the final weekend.
One of the changes in the new Liga MX was to include second-division teams in the MX Cup competition. But first-division teams have fielded largely reserve squads for the cup games, lowering interest. As a result, the four finalists this season were all second-division teams.
Decio De Maria, the president of Liga MX, has asknowledged things could be better.
''This is the first edition and we've all learned - club and referees. There is a maturation process involved.''
Some have suggested there needs to be an economic incentive for winning the cup. De Maria seems open to it in some fashion, but draws a line.
''We could dangle a carrot,'' he said over the possibility of a monetary award. ''But the best carrot should be lifting the trophy. The economic award should be an incentive, but it should never be the most important.''
The league, which was formerly administered by the Mexican Football Federation, has also tried to show a more gentle face with coaches, players and referees operating under an ethics code. But the only difference seems to be that coaches who had previously been openly critical - like Brazilian Ricardo Ferreti of Tigres - have been quiet for fear of being fined.
''The league made me sign a paper that says I have to respect the referees, not say anything, not get angry, not make comments, not overact,'' Ferreti said. ''If I signed it, I have to keep my word.''
Problems have continued in the stands with violent hooligan groups known as ''barras bravas'' still causing mayhem, much as before.
De Maria said it would take three years for the new league to show improvement, but not much has changed so far.