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The Apertura [aperˈtuɾa] and Clausura [klawˈsuɾa] tournaments are a relatively recent innovation for many Latin American football leagues in which the traditional European football season from August to May is divided in two sections per season, each with its own champion. Apertura and Clausura are the Spanish words for "opening" and "closing". In French-speaking Haiti, these are known as the Ouverture and the Fermeture, while in English-speaking Belize, they are respectively the "Opening" and "Closing" seasons. The North American Soccer League (NASL), the second-level league in both the United States and Canada, adopted a split season in 2013; the season is divided into a "Spring Championship" and "Fall Championship".

Latin America

The Apertura is held in the first half of the calendar year in Colombia, Haiti and Paraguay while it is held in the second half of the calendar year in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Uruguay and Venezuela.

The words Apertura and Clausura are used in most Latin American countries. Some, however, use different terminology:

  • Argentina: Starting in 2012–13, Inicial and Final (Spanish for "initial" and "final")
  • Colombia: Apertura and Finalización
  • Costa Rica: Invierno and Verano (Spanish for "winter" and "summer")

In most leagues, each tournament constitutes a national championship in itself. On the other hand, in the leagues of Nicaragua, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela, the winners of the Apertura and Clausura play each other in a playoff for the season title, or there is a final stage where teams qualify based on placements in the Apertura and Clausura. Thus, two championship titles are awarded per year in the first group of leagues, and only one in the second. In Mexico and Colombia, for instance, the winners of each tournament play each other at the beginning of the following season for another title, but this is a rather minor season curtain-raiser, akin to national Super Cups in European leagues. Some Apertura and Clausura tournaments also have second stages to decide the winner.

In leagues with 12 or fewer teams, each Apertura and Clausura has a double round-robin format, as a means to fill in the gaps caused by the lack of elimination cup competitions as in most European countries. In leagues with 16 or more teams, each tournament has a single round-robin format.

Relegations, if any, are done on an aggregate basis; usually the combined table for both tournaments determine relegation placements. In some leagues, the average points over the previous two or three seasons are used to determine relegation.

Peru abolished its Apertura and Clausura format after the 2008 season. Ecuador adopted the Apertura and Clausura in 2005 featuring two champions in the season, however, its subsequent tournaments renamed the Apertura and Clausura as first and second stages, respectively, with the top placed teams advancing to a third stage to determine the champion and international qualification. Starting in 2009, the Ecuadorian championships were decided by a final between stage or group winners, mainting the half-year tournament format. Argentine Football Association president Julio Grondona proposed in December 2008 the return to a single championship per season format,[1] but there are no plans currently for such a format change in the near future.


The Premier League of Belize, created in 2012 by the merger of two rival top-level leagues, began a split season in 2012–13. The Opening Season takes place in the second half of the calendar year, with the Closing Season following in the first half of the next calendar year. Like most Latin American leagues, it crowns two separate champions in each season. However, its format is significantly different from that of most other leagues, being more similar to the system used by Major League Soccer in the United States and Canada.

The league's 12 teams are divided into two six-team zones. During each half of the season, every team plays a double round-robin within its zone, plus single games against four teams from the opposite zone, resulting in a 14-game schedule. The top two teams from each zone qualify for a playoff round, with the top team from each zone matched against the second-place team from the other zone in the two-legged semifinals. The semifinal winners advance to a two-legged final.


The Brazilian national league is a notable tournament in Latin America not to split the season into two parts, using a single-season double round-robin format to decide the champions, similar to those in European leagues, though played between May and December. Brazilian clubs also participate in the state leagues from January to April. Brazil also has, unlike most Latin American nations, a national cup.

Japan and South Korea

For most of its history (except in 1996, 2002, and 2003) the J. League in Japan had a similar system, although it was called 1st Stage and 2nd Stage. The seasons became unified permanently in 2005, partially to avoid conflicts with the Emperor's Cup. The K-League of South Korea also had the same system in 1984, 1986, 1995, 2004, 2005, and 2006. In 2007, it again became unified because of confusion among fans.

North American Soccer League

The NASL adopted a split-season format in 2013, divided into Spring and Fall Championships. Following the traditional standard for the US and Canada, the season is entirely contained within a calendar year. It follows a format more similar to that of Nicaragua, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela—each part of the season is conducted in a double round-robin format, with the winner of each part of the season advancing to a championship final known as the Soccer Bowl.

Apertura and Clausura by country

Country League Champions Calendar Seasons
 Argentina Primera División Both (Since 1991-92) European (August – June) 1990–91 – 2011-12
 Belize Premier League Both (since 2012–13) European (August – May) 2012–13 – present
 Bolivia Liga de Fútbol Profesional Both (Since 2003) European (August – May) 1991 – present
 Chile Primera División Both European (July – June)
American (January - December)
2013–14 – present
2002 – 2009, 2011 – 2012[2]
 Colombia Primera A Both American (February – December) 2002 – present
 Costa Rica Primera División Both European 2007–08 – present
 Ecuador Serie A Both American 2005
 El Salvador Primera División Both European (August – June) 1998–99 – present
 Guatemala Liga Nacional de Fútbol Both European 1999–00 – present
 Haiti Ligue Haïtienne Both (since 2002, except in 2005–06) American (April–November) 2002, 2003, 2004–05, 2007–present[3]
 Honduras Liga Nacional de Fútbol Both (Since 1997–98) European (August – May) 1997–98 – present
 Mexico Liga MX Both European (July – May) 1996–97 – present
 Nicaragua Primera División One European  ???
 Panama Liga de Fútbol Both (Since 2007) European (July – May) 2001 – present
 Paraguay Primera División Both (Since 2007) American (February – December) 1996–present
 Peru Primera División One American (February – November) 1997–2008
 Uruguay Primera División One European (August – June) 1994 – present
 United States/ Canada North American Soccer League One American (April – November) 2013 – present
 Venezuela Primera División One European (August – May) 1996-97 - present

See also


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