What is Copa Libertadores?
Originally called the South American Championships, the tournament was renamed in 1960 in honor of the soldier-presidents who fought for independence
Competition: TACA LIBERTADORES DA AMERICA
Number of teams: 38
Formation of Copa Libertadores
Copa Libertadores de America is a renowned annual club tournament run by CONMEBOL. The best teams in CONMEBOL compete in the esteemed tournament, ushered by the South American Championship of Champions held in 1948.
The predecessor had been organized for the various national league leaders. A decade later, Peñarol's board leaders came up with the format of the tournament.
The competition was approved during the 24th South American Congress of 1959. The title Copa Libertadores of America was coined in 1960 in honor of the soldier-presidents or liberators who fought for independence from Spain in the early 19th century. The title simply translates to "Liberators of America Cup", in English.
History and origin of Copa Libertadores
The inaugural tournament was held in 1960. Seven teams competed and it was the Uruguayan side, Peñarol, who emerged as the champions by defeating Olimpia of Paraguay in the first ever final of the Copa Libertadores. Peñarol managed to successfully defend their title in the following edition of the competition.
The Argentine clubs dominated in the 70s with one club in particular, Independiente, winning four titles in succession from 1972-75, a record that has not been matched to date. Boca Juniors also won two successive titles and were on a third trial in 1979 only to be subdued by Olimpia in a thrilling second tie of the final played in Buenos Aires.
Later, the Brazilian clubs made an impact in the 1990s. They took six titles in that time. The clubs from the nation dominated once more between 2010 and 2013 though none reached the 2014 final won by San Lorenzo of Argentina, the current champions.
One of the major developments adopted in the competition was the invitation of Mexican sides in 1998 to participate, despite being under CONCACAF. They have continually taken part after the competition was expanded to accommodate more teams.
This transformation occurred at a time when Toyota started sponsoring the competition. They remained sponsors until 2008 when Grupo Santander, a well-recognized bank, took over. Consequently, the title of the tournament has been adjusted from Copa Toyota Libertadores to Copa Santander Libertadores and now the Copa Bridgestone Libertadores. Bridgestone is the current sponsor of Copa Libertadores.
Evolution of Copa Libertadores
Since the competition was first held, it had been played in various formats. First, it was contested amongst South American league champions only, and then the runner-ups of the leagues began taking part from 1966. The tournament involved 20 teams until 2000 when it was broadened to include 32 teams. Nowadays, each country sends at least three clubs but Argentina and Brazil have five clubs participating in the competition.
Only points earned from the two-legged ties were considered from 1960 to 1987. The system in use then awarded match winners two points, 1 for a draw and 0 for a loss. If the third match, played at a neutral ground, was drawn, then the goal difference and later penalty shootouts (if there is a tie in number of goals) would be considered.
This method changed from 1988 when the third match was abandoned. Starting 1995, CONMEBOL uses the standard system for awarding points that awards 3 points for a game won instead of the earlier 2 points.
Video: Copa Libertadores 2015 Draw, Primary and Secondary phase group format
Copa Libertadores qualification phase, group & format
Different countries have adopted different formats to get representatives in the competition. Some use the Apertura and Clausura format, which are basically half year tournaments. Some teams qualify as champions of local leagues, others through league formats like employed by Brazil. On the other hand, Peru and Ecuador have opted to have stages for qualifications.
The tournament begins at the group stage. The groups have consisted of different number of teams over the years. Nonetheless, the current format has eight groups each with four teams. Of these teams, six qualify through the initial preliminary phase. Winners and runner-ups from the groups advance to the knockout levels.
The first stage is played in February with the final coming sometime between June and August. All the matches are played over two legs. Winners of the previous Copa Libertadores and the Copa Sudamericana have a direct entry into the tournament.
Copa Libertadores significant events
The 1962 tournament was one to be recalled for the displays that Santos managed to showcase under the inspiration of the legendary Pele. Together with his team mates Gilmar, Coutinho, Mauro, Mengalvion and Pepe, they made the news routinely for their exemplary talent. Santos ended Peñarol's dominance by defeating them in the final of 1962.
From a national look, Argentine clubs have managed the greatest number of victories, 23, followed by Brazilian clubs with 17. Independiente, Argentina, is the most prolific club in the tournament with 7 titles.
The tournament has hosted notable players. Alberto Spencer, Ecuador, holds the record for most goals scored with 54 goals. He made this achievement while playing for Peñarol and Barcelona of Guayaquil from 1960 to 1972. He won the title thrice with Peñarol, in 1960, 1961 and 1966.
Another remarkable talent is Daniel Onega who had an outstanding performance in the 1966 tournament despite his team, the River Plate, losing in the final. Onega netted 17 times to set the record for most goals scored in a single tournament.
Check our complete champions list of Copa Libertadores de América since 1960 upto present.
Official anthem of Copa Libertadores
The tournament adopted a section of Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 "Choral" as their official anthem. The anthem's chorus is played before the start of live television broadcasts of the matches in the Copa Libertadores and also played at the end. The symphony is also played during the draw of teams at the beginning of each edition and during the awarding ceremony.
Copa Libertadores most wins by club
|Independiente||7||1964, 1965, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1984|
|Boca Juniors||6||1977, 1978, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2007|
|Peñarol||5||1960, 1961, 1966, 1982, 1987|
|Estudiantes||4||1968, 1969, 1970, 2009|
|Olimpia||3||1979, 1990, 2002|
|Nacional||3||1971, 1980, 1988|
|São Paulo||3||1992, 1993, 2005|
|Santos||3||1962, 1963, 2011|
|River Plate||2||1986, 1996|
|Vasco da Gama||1||1998|
Copa Libertadores most wins by country
Copa Libertadores top goalscorers
|Antony de Ávila||29||94|
|Juan Carlos Sarnari||29||62|
|Juan Carlos Sánchez||26||53|