South America and football are almost synonymous terms. It is little wonder, then, that the Copa America is the oldest continental national football competition in the world. The quadrennial event has been in existence since 1916 and brings together all countries from the football-mad CONMEBOL region.
Argentina was the first country to make an attempt to organize an international football competition in South America. They held the first such tournament in 1910 as they were marking 100 years of the May revolution. In that year, Uruguay and Chile took part in the tournament, but it did not go into the official records of the CONMEBOL.
Six years later, Argentina was at it again, this time inviting Brazil, Chile and Uruguay to a two-week competition. The tournament was hugely successful and is officially regarded the birth of the Copa America.
Since the first tournament, the number of nations participating in the competition grew steadily and not much later every country in the region was turning up for competition. Initially, the competition was held every year, bringing together 10 teams from the South American region. As the need to harmonize competition with world regions arose, the calendar of the competition was adjusted and today it happens once every four years.
Once it took root, the Copa America opened itself to guest teams, mostly two teams from the CONCACAF (North America) region. Occasionally, the tournament gets expanded to 16 teams, usually during times when the competition is marking a milestone.
2016 Copa Centenario edition
In 2016, for instance, the tournament was held in the United States, the first time it took place outside South America. Si CONCACAF teams (USA, Mexico, Haiti, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Panama) took part in the tournament that was celebrating 100 years of the Copa America competition.
The tournament was won by Chile, making it their second title in a row and the second overall. A year earlier, Chile’s win had ensured that every member of the CONMEBOL had finally won the competition at least once.
Uruguay remains the most successful team with 15 wins from the 45 editions played so far. Mexico is a big friend of the tournament, having played every edition since 1993. They have reached the semi-finals in the past, the highest achievement by a guest team.
The 2019 edition of the competition will be heading to 2014 World Cup host nation Brazil.