When it comes to explaining soccer in this Beginners Guide to Argentine Primera División, the league is more complicated than leagues from other parts of the world. Few countries can say that soccer intersects with every facet of daily living like it does in Argentina. “Which club do you support” is the one of the first two questions that is asked by an Argentine when first being introduced. This is asked by everyone from a distant acquaintance to a high-powered executive interviewing a prospective job candidate. Soccer is lived nearly 24 hours a day on television and radio there. Even political shows talk a great deal about soccer in their broadcasts.
How influential is soccer in Argentina? Well, for starters the president of the Argentine FA (AFA), Armando “Chiqui” Tapia, is the son-in-law of the most powerful worker’s union leader in Argentina, Hugo Moyano. Moyano also happens to be the president of Independiente. Television mogul and former AFA presidential candidate Marcelo Tinelli has served in various functions at San Lorenzo including vice-president. The most obvious example is that of current Argentine president Mauricio Macri. His “political” career began back in the mid 1990’s when he became the president of Boca Juniors. Even the current Boca president has important ties to the intelligence community in Argentina. This leads us to how all of those relationships led to the newest creation in Argentine soccer – the Superliga.
After years of fits and starts, the new first division format with 28 teams kicked off in 2017 with great anticipation and lots of pomp. After Julio Grondona’s experiment of a 30-team league ended last year, the AFA is now looking to reduce the amount of teams in a gradual manner until 2019. There was also a great deal of controversy in regards to its new rights deal that led to the genesis of the Superliga as it required fans in Argentina to pony up 300 pesos a month ($US 17). This left many fans out in the dark as many of the matches were blacked out for fans that did not have the service.
This was a huge change from the completely accessible, tax-payer driven Fútbol Para Todos contract that was torn up by the Macri administration.
In the US, the TV rights have been virtually non-existent and the Argentine league is not seen on television as much since 2014 when GolTV last had it. The only network that shows matches is TyC Sports International, who continues to own the international rights to that property. Prior to the new TV deal that was made with FOX Sports Latin America and TNT Sports, every single match could be watched on YouTube. The difference is that fans abroad will not be able to see the two biggest clubs play on TV — Boca Juniors and River Plate.
The best option for viewing the Argentine league in the US is definitely Fanatiz. This provider offers legal streaming of Superliga Argentina games including River Plate and Boca Juniors games. Plus Fanatiz also features the Chilean league and Chilean Cup. Fanatiz offers a 14-day free trial.
Familiar faces and teams to watch
For those that follow Liga MX, there will be some players that fans will remember. Former Xolos and Club América goalscorer Darío Benedetto has quickly become a fan favorite over at Boca Juniors. Ever since returning to Argentina, Benedetto was called up to the national team and has seen some action with the Albiceleste. Benedetto was a fundamental part of Boca Juniors winning the title last year. Benedetto will be getting some help as Monterrey loaned out the mercurial Colombian international Edwin Cardona. Since arriving in La Boca, Cardona has found a way to both capture the imagination of the Boca faithful while obfuscating them with the antics that saw him leave Mexico to begin with. Between their success unrivaled in the league this season and the impending return (again) of Carlos Tevez from China, Boca will be front and center of both sporting and even gossip columns.
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You cannot mention Boca without mentioning River Plate. Former PSG, Monaco and DC United man Marcelo Gallardo has become an institution over at El Monumental as he helped River to a dream year in 2015. The only title that Gallardo has failed to deliver to Los Millonarios is a league title. Despite crashing out of the Copa Libertadores and losing to Boca in the latest edition of the Superclásico, River are not quite out just yet. They are poised to rebound from their bad run of form to defend the Copa Argentina title they won last year and look to get revenge in the Super Cup.
José Sand is familiar to many Mexican league fans for his time in that country. But at 37, Sand continues to show his prowess over at Lanús. He was the spark for that team to reach their first-ever Copa Lib final as they will face Grêmio for the right to represent CONMEBOL in the upcoming Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi.
There are also interesting stories brewing such as surprise team Unión as well as Talleres from Córdoba. Overall, this league can offer surprises week in and week out. Some of it has to do with the intensity of each game, but a great deal of it can also be attributed to the overall parity and diluted talent pool that erodes with every passing year.
The 28-team field will play each other once (27 matches). There will also be a rivalry week where all the big derbies will be played throughout the country.
Due to the calendar beginning in August and to take full advantage of the holidays and vacation season in Argentina, the Superliga has a 48-day recess in January. It is very similar to the break that is taken in various European leagues. The last round of matches are scheduled to be played on December 8-11 and then will resume on January 27. The teams will return to practice two weeks before to get back into form as the season will end on May 13 (subject to change).
In addition to the league, clubs play the Copa Argentina. This cup tournament was re-established after two previous editions in 1969 and 1970. This was a competition that was created during the Fútbol Para Todos days to be able to reach out to areas that do not have some of the top clubs play there frequently. The competition begins in February. Matches are mostly played in a neutral venue and the date of the final will either be played in late November or early December. As of press time, the date or site of the final was not determined.
The winner of this competition gets a spot in the Argentine Super Cup where they would face the winner of the league, Boca Juniors. The second reward that the cup winner obtains is a spot in the Copa Libertadores should they have not already qualified for that competition. In the event that the winning team has already obtained a spot in Copa Libertadores, the runner-up in the competition would then qualify.
Promotion and Relegation
Much like most countries that play semester-type tournaments, Argentina has implemented averages of the last four seasons to determine which four teams will be relegated. Here is the formula: Points won divided by matches played equals average.
These four teams would be replaced by the champion of the Nacional B (second division) and the winner of a single-elimination tournament between teams placed in second to ninth place in the table. With this type of promotion, the next tournament will have 26 teams.
If you have any questions about the Beginners Guide to Superliga Argentina, let us know in the comments section below.
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