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Copa America winners - Uruguay’s dominance to Brazilian samba

Uruguay have won the Copa America 15 times - the most in the history of the tournament.

3 min By Aarish Ansari
GettyImages-1328070575
(Picture by Wagner Meier)

Copa America is a premier football competition for countries in South America. Starting in 1916 as the South American Football Championship, it is also the oldest running football tournament in the world and has been contested 47 times.

From legends Diego Maradona and Pele to modern-day greats Lionel Messi and Neymar Jr., the competition has featured some of the finest talents of the world.

However, the event we see today wasn’t as organised when it was initiated over a century ago by CONMEBOL - the governing body of football in South America.

During the early years, the tournament followed an erratic timetable and was played between just four nations - Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay.

However, the continental contest has undergone a slew of changes. The name was changed to Copa America in 1975, the number of teams increased gradually and the tournament now has a fixed schedule.

Uruguay dominated the initial years of the competition, winning six trophies in the first 10 campaigns and is the most successful team in the history of the tournament with 15 titles.

The Argentina football team won the title 12 times in the South American Championship era, including a hat-trick between 1945-1947.

South American Championship winners list

Year Winner Runners-up
1916UruguayArgentina
1917UruguayArgentina
1919BrazilUruguay
1920UruguayArgentina
1921ArgentinaBrazil
1922BrazilParaguay
1923UruguayArgentina
1924UruguayArgentina
1925ArgentinaBrazil
1926UruguayArgentina
1927ArgentinaUruguay
1929ArgentinaParaguay
1935UruguayArgentina
1937ArgentinaBrazil
1939PeruUruguay
1941ArgentinaUruguay
1942UruguayArgentina
1945ArgentinaBrazil
1946ArgentinaBrazil
1947ArgentinaParaguay
1949BrazilParaguay
1953ParaguayBrazil
1955ArgentinaChile
1956UruguayChile
1957ArgentinaBrazil
1959ArgentinaBrazil
1959UruguayArgentina
1963BoliviaParaguay
1967UruguayArgentina

After a gap of eight years, the competition resumed in 1975 with a new name - Copa America. The tournament was played throughout the year in all 10 participating nations, with defending champions Uruguay receiving a bye into the semi-final. Peru won the first rebranded championship.

Copa America was held every four years with this format until 1987 when CONMEBOL decided to organise it every alternate year.

From 2001 to 2007, the tournament was held every three years and from 2007, Copa became a quadrennial event, with the exception of the 100th-anniversary edition in 2016.

Copa America was held in 2019 and again in 2020 to move it to even years and sync it with the European Championship.

Owing to the limited number of teams in South America, CONMEBOL invites nations from other continents to compete in the tournament. Costa Rica, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, Panama, Qatar and the USA have been the non-South American nations to take part in the competition.

In the Copa America era, Brazil has proved to be the most successful nation, winning the competition six times, followed by Uruguay claiming the top honours four times while Argentina have won the continental trophy thrice, including the most recent edition in 2021.

Copa America winners list

YearWinnerRunners-up
1975PeruColombia
1979ParaguayChile
1983UruguayBrazil
1987UruguayChile
1989BrazilUruguay
1991ArgentinaBrazil
1993ArgentinaMexico
1995UruguayBrazil
1997BrazilBolivia
1999BrazilUruguay
2001ColombiaMexico
2004BrazilArgentina
2007BrazilArgentina
2011UruguayParaguay
2015ChileArgentina
2016ChileArgentina
2019BrazilPeru
2021ArgentinaBrazil

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