Copa Libertadores de America: More About this Tournament

7th October 2019
The Copa Libertadores de America is the most important tournament in this continent since it brings together the best teams in each league. What are its main characteristics?

This is the most important international soccer tournament in Latin America– a namesake for Europe’s UEFA– and it takes place every year to uncover the best team on the continent. In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the Copa Libertadores de America.

Brief historical review

While the history of this tournament dates back to the 1930s– divided between the champions of Argentina and Uruguay–, the opening date was April 19, 1960. At that time, it was called Copa Campeones de America since only the best from each country classified.

Seven teams from Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile were present in the first edition. The winning team was the Uruguayan Peñarol, who, along with its historical rival Nacional, are the two teams that have participated in the tournament the most (46 times, to be precise).

Gradually, more teams were taking part in the competition, but always with the premise of only accepting the champions of each local league. The Independent, a team from Argentina, won it’s first title in 1964; they’re the top champions of the cup with seven titles.

Nonetheless, this didn’t last long. In 1965, the tournament was renamed Copa Libertadores de America. Since that year, the champions and runner-ups of each country can classify.

In 1966, 16 teams from ten member countries of the Conmebol participated. By 1968, there were already 21 competitors, a number that would remain until 1998, with some exceptions. Then, two more teams would join.

At the beginning of this millennium, in the year 2000, there were 34 teams. In 2004, 36 teams were competing; while in 2005, 38 teams played. Since 2017, not only did the tournament’s name change to Copa Conmebol Libertadores but it now also houses 47 teams.

This tournament now includes 47 teams.
Image: Conmebol.com

The game format of the Copa Libertadores de America

As we previously learned, only the league champions had a chance to participate in the beginning, but then there were certain modifications. As for the dispute format, the new changes were set in 2017, in addition to increasing the number of participating clubs. 

In simple terms, the champions and the best teams of the previous season of each Conmebol country classify. Each league has a different quota: Brazil and Argentina are the ones with the most spots (five each).

The rest of the Conmebol countries have only two spots. The champion of the previous Copa Libertadores and the winner of the Copa Sudamericana also participate.

To get 47 participating teams, we must also consider the competitors from the previous states: two for all countries, except Argentina, who only has one.

Thirty-two teams arrive at the group stage, which is divided into eight groups of four participants each. They play round-trip matches– local and visitor– and the first two of each group move on to the next round. The 16 teams participate in round-trip qualifying games: round of 16, quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals.

The winner of the Copa Libertadores de America isn’t only the best team on the continent for that season but also qualifies for the FIFA Club World Cup, to find out who is the best team in the world.

Additionally, the winner plays the Recopa Sudamericana against the champion of the Copa Sudamericana in two matches (visitors and home).

Statistics and records of the Copa Libertadores de America

Argentina is the country that has won the most titles, with a total of 25 (seven for Independiente, six for Boca, four for River Plate, and others); teams from Argentina were also the runner-up eleven times. In second place is Brazil, with 18 cups (Sao Paulo, Santos, and Gremio each have three) and 15 runner-ups. In third is Uruguay with eight titles (five by Peñol and three by Nacional).

Independiente has won this tournament 7 times.

Since 2007, the prize for the best player in the tournament has been awarded. Some winners were Juan Roman Riquelme (Boca Juniors), Neymar (Santos), and Ronaldinho (Atletico Mineiro). It’s also worth mentioning that the Paraguayan, Ever Hugo Almeida participated in 113 Cup matches.

Ultimately, since the first edition, there’s always been a top scorer. The Colombian Alberto Spencer (Peñarol player) is the highest scorer in the Copa Libertadores de America with a total of 54 goals. The Argentine, Daniel Onega (River Plate) has the record of scoring 17 goals in a single edition of the tournament, back in 1966.

  • Reglamento Conmebol Libertadores. 2019. Conmebol. http://www.conmebol.com/sites/default/files/reglamento-conmebol-libertadores-2019-esp.pdf