The COPA America, a competition that begins today, is the oldest international continental soccer tournament in the world. Its first edition — officially recognized by CONMEBOL, South America’s football confederation — took place in Argentina in 1916 with fellow South American countries Chile, Uruguay, and Brazil also participating. Uruguay defeated the hosts to win the inaugural event. The COPA has included the ten members of CONMEBOL since Venezuela’s debut in 1967, and was referred to as the South American Championship (Campeonato Sudamericano de Football) until 1975.
In 1993 the tournament expanded to twelve teams, which necessitated inviting guests from outside the South American continent. Mexico has participated in every edition (9) since, twice finishing as the runner-up, and coming in third three times. Uruguay has won the most editions (15) with Argentina a close second (14). World power Brazil is third with eight championships, five of those coming in the past 25 years. Ecuador and Venezuela have never won it. Chile is the defending champion (2015). Now contested every four years, this year’s Centenario is a special edition. It is the first time the competition has ever been held outside of South America and this time includes six guests, all from North and Central America. The host United States will be participating for the fourth time when they kick off the three-week tournament tonight against one of the top South American sides, Colombia, in Santa Clara, CA