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Light-green - countries with Apertura and Clausura tournaments during calendar year; Orange - countries with "European system"; Number 1 shows countries where the Apertura and Clausura are only parts of a larger tournament.

The Apertura and Clausura tournaments are a recent innovation for many Latin American association 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 Clôture.

History

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

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, 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. Relegations, if any, are done on an aggregate basis; usually the combined table for both tournaments determine relegation placement(s). In the Argentine and Mexican leagues, the average points over the previous three seasons are used to determine relegation.

Peru has abolished its Apertura and Clausura format after the 2008 season and adopted new formats. Ecuador used it only in 2005.

The Apertura and Clausura format can be seen as a means to fill in the gaps caused by the inherent lack of elimination cup competitions in most Latin American nations.

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 April and December. Uruguay is planning to return to this system in 2010. The last single season in Uruguay was held in 1993. Argentine Football Association president Julio Grondona proposed in December 2008 the return to a single season format[1], but there are no plans currently for such a format change in the near future. Brazilian clubs also participate in the state leagues from January to April. Brazil also has, unlike most Spanish-speaking nations, a national cup.

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.

Apertura and Clausura by country

Country League Champions Calendar Seasons
Argentina Primera División de Argentina Both (since 1991/92) European (August / June) 1990/91 - present
Bolivia Liga de Fútbol Profesional Boliviano Both American (February / December) 1991 - present
Chile Primera División de Chile Both American (January / December) 2002 - present
Colombia Fútbol Profesional Colombiano Both American (February / December) 2002 - present
Costa Rica Primera División de Costa Rica Both European 2007/08 - present
Ecuador Serie A de Ecuador Both American 2005
El Salvador Primera División de Fútbol Profesional Both European (August / June) 1998/99 - present
Guatemala Liga Nacional de Guatemala Both European 1999/00 - present
Honduras Liga Nacional de Fútbol de Honduras Both European 1997/98 - present
Mexico Primera División de México Both European (July / May) 1996/97 - present
Nicaragua Primera División de Nicaragua One European  ???
Panama Liga Panameña de Fútbol Both (since 2007) American (February / November) 2001 - present
Paraguay Primera División de Paraguay Both (since 2007) American (February / December)  ???
Peru Primera División Peruana One American (February / November) 1997 - 2008
Uruguay Primera División Uruguaya One European (August / June) 1994 - present
Venezuela Primera División Venezolana One European (August / May)  ???

References

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