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The Evolution of One of the Oldest International Soccer Tournaments in the World, Copa America

Source: espn.com

While the world regards the FIFA World Cup as the grandest stage of football where countries can compete for glory and showcase their dominance, there are plenty of other tournaments where national teams can compete to come out on top. The Copa America is a tournament that allows the countries of South America to showcase their superiority in the sport.

Copa America has long been regarded as the oldest international soccer competition in the world. In 1910, trials were held before holding the first official tournament in 1916 to commemorate Argentina’s independence. Originally called Campeonato Sudamericano de Football, Argentina was joined by Chile, Uruguay, and Brazil, making up the first participants of the tournament. The event lasted between July 2 to 17, culminating in Uruguay’s victory after being held on a tie. 

The tournament’s success resulted in the establishment of CONMEBOL, South America’s governing body responsible for major international tournaments. They held another tournament a year later, with Uruguay once again defeating Argentina to retain the title. While there were plans to have a third tournament, Rio de Janeiro, the designated venue, was forced to cancel the tournament following a flu outbreak. However, they continued the next year, with Brazil finally overthrowing Uruguay to earn its first championship.

More South American countries started to join the tournament throughout the years, but a dispute arose that would cancel the tournament for a couple of years. Following the World Cup final in 1930, hostilities grew between Argentina and Uruguay, as the latter came out victorious in the competition. The event later returned and, for several years, entered into a limbo state where championships were held irregularly, and many many matches deemed unofficial. Throughout the years, the tournament was held every one to four years. 

By 1975, Campeonato Sudamericano de Football officially changed its name to Copa America. The name was not the only change. The tournament replaced its point-by-point system to follow the FIFA World Cup format, including a qualifying phase, distribution of group selections, and qualifying rounds. In the following years, Copa America would invite national teams outside South America to participate with the United States and Mexico as the pioneering nations. Since the 90s, teams from Asia have also been invited to participate. Although none of the invited teams have been able to break through as victors, Mexico has been the only team to deliver the best results, coming in as runner-up in 1993 and 2001 and third place in 1997, 1999, and 2007.

Since changing its system to follow the World Cup format, Copa America has been held on a quadrennial basis. The tournament was last held in 2016 and 2019, with Chile and Brazil as their respective victors. While there were plans to host another tournament in 2020, the pandemic was forced to push Copa America to a later schedule. 

Colombia was initially set to co-host this year’s tournament, but following security concerns was dethroned following riots. There have been plans to hold the events in the United States in June, marking the second time the country has hosted the Copa America after 2016.


  1. https://www.footballhistory.org/tournament/copa-america.html
  2. https://copaamerica.com/en/history/
  3. https://www.britannica.com/sports/Copa-America
  4. https://web.archive.org/web/20140221011523/http://www.conmebol.com/en/content/oldest-continental-tournament-world
  5. https://web.archive.org/web/20140221011523/http://www.conmebol.com/en/content/oldest-continental-tournament-world