The Copa Libertadores of America (in Portuguese: Taça Libertadores da America), whose official name is CONMEBOL Libertadores Bridgestone as a result of a partnership, is an annual football competition created in 1960, organized by the Confederación Sudamericana de Fútbol (CONMEBOL ) and regrouping the best clubs of the South-American continent. It is the most prestigious club competition in South America in front of Copa Sudamericana. It is perceived as the equivalent of the European Champions League.
In the first editions, only the champions of the South American leagues participate in the competition. As time goes by, other teams than the national champions get the right to join the tournament. In 1998, the Mexican teams are invited to compete, before being fully integrated in 2000, when the tournament is extended from 20 to 32 teams. They will play there until the 2016 edition because problems of calendar prevent them from participating from 2017. Today, at least four clubs per country participate in the tournament, while Argentina and Brazil each have six participants. Traditionally, a group stage is always used but the number of teams per group varies several times. The winner of the competition is automatically qualified for the next edition, he also participates in the Recopa Sudamericana and the FIFA Club World Cup.
CA Independiente is the most successful club in cup history, having won the tournament seven times.
In March 2009, CONMEBOL announced the creation of a women’s continental tournament, with the participation of ten clubs, one per member country. Two years later, the Copa Libertadores U20 was created, to be played by twelve clubs of the continent composed of players aged 20 and under.
The first international clashes between South American clubs took place in Rio de la Plata at the beginning of the 20th century. The Argentineans and the Uruguayans begin in the year of 1900 with the Copa Competência (Competence Cup), between the clubs of the two nations. In 1905, begins the Copa de Honor Cusenier (Cusenier Honorary Cup) and, in 1916, the Copa Aldao.
The first idea of a continental cup came in 1948. Colo-Colo leader, leader Róbinson Marín, supported by CONMEBOL president, Chilean Luis Valenzuela, successfully organized a tournament of American champions, the South Championship American champions. Are invited the champions of 1947 from each country: Vasco da Gama (Brazil), River Plate (Argentina), Nacional (Uruguay), Emelec (Ecuador), Deportivo Municipal (Peru) and Litoral (Bolivia).
In September 1958, Brazilian José Ramos de Freitas, president of CONMEBOL, made a trip to Argentina, notably to discuss the creation of a champion of South American champions clubs. In October of the same year, the then President of the Brazilian Sports Confederation Joao Havelange announced in Paris the creation of the “Champions Cup of America” and the Intercontinental Cup. The idea is supported by Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay and Peru. He added that other countries in South America and possibly Mexico, the United States and Canada would also be invited. On March 5, 1959, at the 30th CONMEBOL Convention in Buenos Aires, the South American leaders agreed to the project of a “Champions Championship” presented by Chile and Brazil.
At the 1958 CONMEBOL Congress in Rio de Janeiro, the design of a tournament between South American champions begins, similar to that in Europe since 1955. UEFA itself supports the launch of a competition between clubs in South America, with the intention of facing each year the winners of the two confederations (the Intercontinental Cup). When the project is presented to CONMEBOL, it is approved by all but Uruguay. The newly elected President of the Confederation, Uruguayan Fermín Sorhueta, is in charge of setting up the competition. After several meetings, it was decided that the champions of each country would participate and that, in the event of the champion’s refusal to participate, the vice-champion would replace him.