CONMEBOL is the South American Football Confederation (officially known as the Confederación Sudamericana de Fútbol) which covers the majority of the continent of South America. It is the oldest of FIFA’s confederations, originally forming in 1916, almost a century ago. The federation’s formation was begun by Héctor Rivadavia Gómez who had a grand plan for a federation for South American football. His idea was put to a committee including Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay and was greeted unanimously with approval. The date marked 100 years of Argnentinian independence and now also the formation of what would go on to become known as CONMEBOL.
Despite being the grandfather of the federations, CONMEBOL has the least member associations with just 10; Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. But even with just 10 members, CONMEBOL is not a small federation geographically, including 2 of the 10 largest nations in the world (Brazil 5th and Argentina 8th).
Whilst UEFA rules the roost club-wise, CONMEBOL are the record holders for international football. They are the only federation to have won the FIFA World Cup outside their own continent, having won it at least once in every continent it’s been held. This is primarily down to Brazil (5 World Cup wins),but Argentina and Uruguay both have got 2 World Cup wins each under their belts. This record is on the line at World Cup 2010 as it is the first one to take place in the continent of Africa.
The headquarters are in Luque, near Asunción, the capital of Paraguay and the current president, Nicolás Léoz, has headed the organisation since 1986. Léoz made his name as a businessman and history teacher as well as presiding over a number of football and basketball organisations, before becoming part of CONMEBOL.
The national sides of CONMEBOL compete in the Copa América, the oldest international football competition in existence. The 10 members are joined by 2 invited teams, to date these have been USA, Mexico, Costa Rica, Japan and Honduras. The competition is primarily dominated by Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil, winning 36 of the 42 tournaments between them.
The competition began in 1916, organised by Argentina as part of the celebrations of 100 years of Argentinian independence, and it was during this competition that the original meetings to create CONMEBOL took place. Just 4 nations took part in the first edition (Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay),with Uruguay winning the round robin tournament, and both Chile and Brazil failed to win a single game.
Between then and 1967 the competition was slightly sporadic, with 29 editions taking place and a round robin format being used. As the tournament grew, more nations began to take part, making it necessary to have qualification rounds. The tournament then took a hiatus till 1975 when it returned as a ‘group stage then knockout’ format and took place every 4 years until 1987 when it became every 2 years. In 2001 it went to every 3 years and then in 2007 it changed yet again to a 4 year gap.
The ‘invited teams’ system began in 1993 to make it into a 12 team tournament. To date, no invited team has won the competition, though Mexico have twice reached the final. Brazil have won 4 of the last 5 tournaments, doubling their tally of titles.
At club level, CONMEBOL’s top competition is the Copa Libertadores, which is an annual cup that sees the best teams in CONMEBOL’s leagues (plus Mexican teams are invited) compete in a group-stage-and-then-knockout-rounds style competition.
The competition began in 1960 and has taken place every year since without exception. Qualification to the competition is via winning the respective domestic league and also teams down to 5th placed in the strongest leagues such as Argentina and Brazil.
The first tournament featured just 7 teams, national champions from Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay, and Uruguay, but now it has grown to feature 38 teams, which includes 3 teams invited from Mexico. To date, the competition has not been won by any of the invited teams and is mainly dominated by teams from Argentina and Brazil.
For 10 years it was sponsored by motor company Toyota and is now sponsored by the global bank Santander.
A secondary competition began in 2002 which also takes place annually; the Copa Sudamericana. This tournament includes teams from CONMEBOL and recently also from CONCACAF.
In 1992, CONMEBOL began to run the secondary cup competition, alongside the Copa Libertadores, calling it the Copa CONMEBOL. This cup ran for 8 seasons and was only won by Brazilian and Argentinian teams. Overlapping this in the last year were 2 competitions; the Copa Merconorte and the Copa Mercosur.
The Copa Merconorte featured teams from Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, as well as United States, Costa Rica and Mexico. The 4 instances were thoroughly dominated by Colombian teams, with all 4 won by them and 3 of the 4 losing finalists also being Colombian.
The Copa Mercosur featured teams from Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Chile and was dominated by Brazilian teams with 3 Brazilian winners and 4 Brazilian runners-up.
The current incarnation as Copa Sudamericana then came into existence and since the first edition in 2002 it has seen more Argentinian finalists than any other nation but has also seen teams from Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Bolivia and Colombia in the final during it’s 7 editions. The design of the competition means that there is a team from either Argentina or Brazil in every game of the second round, which has encouraged much criticism and attacks of it being manufactured purely to reap TV revenues. Further discredits to the competition have come from so many teams fielding weakened teams for this competition.
CONMEBOL run a competition for the women’s national sides called Sudamericano Femenino, taking place a little sporadically but roughly every 3-4 years. It began in 1991 and a Brazillian dominance is evident, having won 4 of the 5 titles and being runners up in the other one. The current format is 2 groups of 5 from which the top 2 in each qualify for a final group of 4. All single fixture ties, held at neutral venues in the host nation.
CONMEBOL Member Nations:
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