The Copa Libertadores is the most important football competition in South America, and acts as that region's counterpart to Europe's UEFA Champions League. It's a tournament which has been held yearly since 1960. The clubs disputing this title are mostly home-grown, showcasing some of the continent's most talented players.
The tournament is played by teams from the countries who make up CONMEBOLnote (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela) plus, between 1998 and 2016, teams invited from the Mexican league.note It has three stages: a preliminary round, then a group stage, then the final knockout phase. Not all the teams have to pass through all those phases, though; the top teams from the top leagues don't have to pass through the preliminary round. The group stage consists of eight groups of four teams (32 clubs in total), each team playing the others in home and away matches with the two top advancing to the knockout phase, which is also played over two legs.
For those who get the chance to compete in it, it offers a good amount of prize money and TV exposure and is the pinnacle of club competition outside of Europe. It showcases some of the finest football in the world and definitely has some of the most epic games you could ask for. The competition has been dominated mostly by "Atlantic" teams (i.e., teams from Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil) since it started, with Independiente having won it a record seven times in their history. However clubs in the "Pacific" have lifted the prestigious trophy at times, the only exceptions being Bolivia, Peru and Venezuela who have yet to produce any champion team in this specific tournamentnote .
It ranks as one of the most popular sporting events in the world, gaining the attention of 135 countries around the world. It's one of the most important dates in a football fan's calendar. Despite not being as glamorous as the Champions League, it usually provides more excitement due to harsher conditions (extended travel, the altitude sickness playing in Mexico and the Andes, less than acceptable grass...) and the Hot-Blooded Latinos expressing themselves in both lively crowds and aggressive players.
The winners (in order of first victory) are: Peñarol (5), Santos (3), Independiente (7), Racing Club (1), Estudiantes de La Plata (4)note , Nacional (3)note , Cruzeiro (2), Boca Juniors (6), Olimpia (3), Flamengo (2), Grêmio (3), Argentinos Juniors (1), River Plate (4), Atlético Nacional (2)note , Colo-Colo (1), São Paulo (3), Vélez Sársfield (1), Vasco da Gama (1), Palmeiras (2), Once Caldas (1), Internacional (2), LDU Quito (1), Corinthians (1), Atletico Mineiro (1) and San Lorenzo (1).