Following on from my earlier post about League Format. Today we’ll look at how the National championship works in Bolivia. Like many of the other countries in Latin America, Bolivia use an Apertura-Clausura style system and their top level league has 12 clubs.
The Apertura, which kicks off in February, operates a 2 stage format. The first stage involves splitting the 12 clubs into two groups of 6, they play a double round-robin within their groups as well as home and away matches from a rival from the other group. Once these 12 fixtures have been played the top 3 from each group progress into a ‘winners’ group or hexagonal, and the bottom 3 go into a losers hexagonal.
Both groups again play a set of round-robin fixtures, home and away, the team that finishes top of the winner’s hexagonal is declared the Apertura champion. The winners also earn a berth into the Copa Libertadores group stage, the runner up gets a place in the 2nd round of the Copa Sudamericana. Bizarrely the winner of the losers hexagonal receive a place in the Copa Sudamericana, this is analogous to a mid-table Premier League side receiving a place in the Uefa cup for finishing as the best team in the bottom half.
Torneo de Invierno (Winter tournament)
In between the Apertura and Clausura, the Bolivian FA hold the ‘Torneo de Invierno’ literally translates as the winter tournament. This used to be a play off tournament for the Apertura but after the format change it has remained as cup competition, something that is unusual to see in a Latin American league. All 12 sides enter, 6 ties are played in the group round with the 6 winners going through as well as the best two runners up. The rest of the tournament is a 2 legged knockout tournament with the winner receiving a place in the Copa Sudamericana.
The Clausura is a much simpler affair, the 12 teams play a double round robin league with the winner being crowned as champion. Winner and runner-up get a Libertadores place while the 3rd place side receives a place in the Sudamericana the following season.
Relegation is decided over the past two years performances, the team with the worst average is relegated immediately. The second worst team has to play off against the runner-up of the Copa Simon Bolivar, Bolivia has a 9 league 2nd tier, similar to 3/4th tiers in countries such as Italy. The runner-up of the play off competition gets a second chance to get into the top division.