Copa Libertadores - South America's Premier Clubs ChampionshipThe CONMEBOL Libertadores, popularly known as Copa Libertadores da América is an annual international club football tournament for South American nations. The tourney is organized by the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL - Confederación Sudamericana de Fútbol) since 1960.
CONMEBOL is the oldest of the globe's six. However, with just ten member associations, it has the fewest federations of all FIFA confederations.
Copa Libertadores FormatThe format of the tournament has taken several forms since its inception. Initially, only the South American leagues' winners participated. In 1966, the tourney's committee voted to include runners-up. Mexican teams got an invite in 1988, and between 2000 and 2016, their participation was regular.
In 2000, the tournament's size was expanded from 20 teams to 32. Today, every member country sends at least four clubs. However, Argentina and Brazil have the most slots, six and seven teams, respectively.
The current format presents the tournament in eight rounds. The first three often pit contenders of the preliminary round. Four teams that survive these rounds join the 28 who earn direct qualification to the group stages.
The 32 are placed in eight groups, where the group winners and their runners-up proceed to the knockout stages, culminating in the finals. The winners qualify to participate in the Recopa Sudamericana, where they meet the winners of the Copa Sudamericana, South America's second most prestigious club football competition.
Copa Libertadores QualificationTeams qualify by winning the Apertura and Clausura tournaments, either halves of a split season. They can also be eligible by being among the league leaders in their championships. Argentina, Brazil, and Chile prefer the latter method, while Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, and Venezuela use the former. Another berth is saved for the winners of the domestic cups. Defending champions also get a berth if they fail to qualify through the domestic league. If they do, the extra slot goes to the next eligible team.
Initially, the Copa Libertadores adopted a unique approach to the tournament. It did not emphasize away goals nor use the extra time. Besides, the two-legged ties were decided on points alone without considering the goal difference.
However, from 1995 onwards, CONMEBOL adopted the FIFA system that places extra value on wins. Teams earn three points for a win, one for a draw, and no point for a loss.
The tourney features 47 teams that compete over eight months. The first is a knockout stage involving twelve teams. The second, a round-robin, while the last is another knockout stage. The six teams that survive the first stage join the 24 that qualify automatically and the two that come through the special berths.
PrizesThe winner gets a trophy, which shares a name with the tournament. The trophy, also called la Copa, was designed by Alberto de Gasperi, an Italian-born Peruvian goldsmith. Aside from the trophy, there is prize money for almost all participants.
Teams eliminated in the first stage take home $350,000. Clubs that exit in the second and third stages get $500,000 and $550,000, respectively. Group stage, the round of 16, and quarterfinal exits attract $1 million, $1.05 million, and $1.2 million, respectively.
The champions pocket $12 million while the first runners-up and the semifinalists get $6 million and $1.75 million, respectively.