It is said that a child's milestones in Colombia include crawling, walking, learning to dance, and playing soccer. The last two are interchangeable. As in most of the world, soccer (fútbol) enjoys almost religious status. Right now, Colombia is entering the final stages of its National Championship games. My Brother In-law, Daniel, has helped me out by writing today's blog.

La Copa Mustang -- the National Championship

The Colombian professional soccer championship is called “La Copa Mustang.” I always found it uncomfortable that the nation's sport championship was named after a brand of cigarettes (maybe it was just a coincidence and it was really named after the amazing American horses.)

The tournament was created in the late 40’s (with 10 teams), but the league was not recognized by FIFA due to some disagreements and instead it was sanctioned. The penalty: No Colombian team was allowed to play in international games, not even the national team. During the next 2 years, and despite these sanctions, Colombian soccer grew to become one of the best in South America. Many of the best players from Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, among others, would come to play for the Colombian soccer clubs.

A lot has changed since the 40’s, now there are 18 teams in the major (A) division and 36 more in inferior (B, C) divisions. The inferior divisions do not play La Copa Mustang, they play different tournaments like La Copa Premier.

There are 2 versions of the Copa Mustang: Apertura and Finalizacion. This just means that every year we get to have 2 champions (sometimes the same team takes both).

This is how La Copa Mustang is played:

The League Stage

During the league stage, which lasts eighteen games, each team plays against every other team once. Plus, there is an additional game against their "local rival" in the league. The league table is kept like a normal European league table, one point for ties, three points for wins. The top eight teams after all of the eighteen games go on to the group stage (which is popularly known as the Cuadrangulares). The 18th placed team automatically loses its place in the A Group and is sent down to an inferior league. The winner of the Copa Premier takes its place. The 17th placed team plays a two legged match against the runner up of the Copa Premier --whichever team wins stays in the A group.

The Group Stage -- Cuadrangulares

The top eight teams of the league stage are then divided into two groups of four teams each (teams finishing 1/3/5/7 in group 1 and the others in group 2), and each team plays two legged matches against all of the other teams in their group. The top team from each group then advances to El Final.

The Final

The Final is two-legged. The team with the highest combined score after both home and away games wins and is crowned Champion. If the game is a tie, it proceeds directly to the penalty shoot-out. The "Away goals rule" is not used.



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