CONMEBOL Copa América
South American Football Championship
Copa América (English: America Cup) or CONMEBOL Copa América, known until 1975 as the South American Football Championship (Campeonato Sudamericano de Fútbol in Spanish and Copa Sul-Americana de Futebol in Portuguese), is the top men’s football tournament contested among national teams from South America. It is the oldest still-running continental football competition, as well as the third most-watched in the world. The competition determines the champions of South America. Since the 1990s, teams from North America and Asia have also been invited to compete.
Since 1993, the tournament has generally featured 12 teams—all 10 CONMEBOL teams and two additional teams from other confederations. Mexico participated in every tournament between 1993 and 2016, with one additional team drawn from CONCACAF, except for 1999, when AFC team Japan filled out the 12-team roster, and 2019, which featured Japan and Qatar. The 2016 version of the event, Copa América Centenario, featured 16 teams, with six teams from CONCACAF in addition to the 10 from CONMEBOL. Mexico’s two runner-up finishes are the highest for a non-CONMEBOL side.
Eight of the ten CONMEBOL national teams have won the tournament at least once in its 47 stagings since the event’s inauguration in 1916, with only Ecuador and Venezuela yet to win. Argentina and Uruguay have the most championships in the tournament’s history, with 15 cups each. Argentina, which hosted the inaugural edition in 1916, has hosted the tournament the most times (nine). The United States is the only non-CONMEBOL country to host, having hosted the event in 2016. On three occasions (in 1975, 1979, and 1983), the tournament was held in multiple South American countries.
The first football team in South America, Lima Cricket and Football Club, was established in Peru in 1859, and the Argentine Football Association was founded in 1893. By the early 20th century, football was growing in popularity, and the first international competition held among national teams of the continent occurred in 1910 when Argentina organized an event to commemorate the centenary of the May Revolution. Chile and Uruguay participated, but this event is not considered official by CONMEBOL. Similarly, for the centennial celebration of its independence, Argentina held a tournament between 2 and 17 July 1916 with Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and Brazil being the first participants of the tournament. This so-called Campeonato Sudamericano de Football would be the first edition of what is currently known as Copa América; Uruguay would triumph in this first edition after tying 0–0 with hosts Argentina in the deciding, last match held in Estadio Racing Club in Avellaneda.
Seeing the success of the tournament, a board member of the Uruguayan Football Association, Héctor Rivadavia, proposed the establishment of a confederation of the associations of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Uruguay, and on 9 July, independence day in Argentina, CONMEBOL was founded. The following year, the competition was played again, this time in Uruguay. Uruguay would win the title again to win their bicampeonato after defeating Argentina 1–0 in the last match of the tournament. The success of the tournament on Charrúan soil would help consolidate the tournament. After a flu outbreak in Rio de Janeiro canceled the tournament in 1918, Brazil hosted the tournament in 1919 and was crowned champion for the first time after defeating the defending champions 1–0 in a playoff match to decide the title, while the Chilean city of Viña del Mar would host the 1920 event which was won by Uruguay.
For the 1921 event, Paraguay participated for the first time after its football association affiliated to CONMEBOL earlier that same year. Argentina won the competition for the first time thanks to the goals of Julio Libonatti. In subsequent years, Uruguay would dominate the tournament, which at that time was the largest football tournament in the world. Argentina, however, would not be far behind and disputed the supremacy with the Charruas. After losing the 1928 final at the 1928 Summer Olympics held in Amsterdam, Argentina would gain revenge in the 1929 South American Championship by defeating the Uruguayans in the last, decisive match. During this period, both Bolivia and Peru debuted in the tournament in 1926 and 1927, respectively.