Soccer

FIFA WORLD CUP​

The FIFA World Cup, often simply called the World Cup, is an international association football competition contested by the senior men’s national teams of the members of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the sport’s global governing body. The championship has been awarded every four years since the inaugural tournament in 1930, except in 1942 and 1946 when it was not held because of the Second World War. The current champion is France, which won its second title at the 2018 tournament in Russia.​

The current format of the competition involves a qualification phase, which currently takes place over the preceding three years, to determine which teams qualify for the tournament phase, which is often called the World Cup Finals. After this, 32 teams, including the automatically qualifying host nation(s), compete in the tournament phase for the title at venues within the host nation(s) over a period of about a month.​

The 21 World Cup tournaments have been won by eight national teams. Brazil have won five times, and they are the only team to have played in every tournament. The other World Cup winners are Germany and Italy, with four titles each; Argentina, France and inaugural winner Uruguay, with two titles each; and England and Spain with one title each.​

The World Cup is the most prestigious association football tournament in the world, as well as the most widely viewed and followed sporting event in the world, exceeding even the Olympic Games; the cumulative audience of all matches of the 2006 World Cup was estimated to be 26.29 billion with an estimated 715.1 million people watching the final match, a ninth of the entire population of the planet.​

17 countries have hosted the World Cup. Brazil, France, Italy, Germany and Mexico have each hosted twice, while Uruguay, Switzerland, Sweden, Chile, England, Argentina, Spain, the United States, Japan and South Korea (jointly), South Africa and Russia have each hosted once. Qatar are planned as hosts of the 2022 finals, and 2026 will be a joint hosted finals between Canada, the United States and Mexico, which will give Mexico the distinction of being the first country to have hosted games in three different finals.​

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UEFA EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP​

The UEFA European Championship (known informally as the Euros) is the primary association football competition contested by the senior men’s national teams of the members of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), determining the continental champion of Europe. Held every four years since 1960, in the even-numbered year between World Cup tournaments, it was originally called the UEFA European Nations’ Cup, changing to the current name in 1968. Starting with the 1996 tournament, specific championships are often referred to in the form “UEFA Euro [year]”; this format has since been retroactively applied to earlier tournaments.​

Prior to entering the tournament all teams other than the host nations (which qualify automatically) compete in a qualifying process. The championship winners earn the opportunity to compete in the following FIFA Confederations Cup, but are not obliged to do so.​

The 15 European Championship tournaments have been won by ten different national teams: Germany and Spain each have won three titles, France has two titles, and Soviet Union, Italy, Czechoslovakia, Netherlands, Denmark, Greece and Portugal have won one title each. To date, Spain is the only team in history to have won consecutive titles, doing so in 2008 and 2012. It is the second most watched football tournament in the world after the FIFA World Cup. The Euro 2012 final was watched by a global audience of around 300 million.​

The most recent championship, hosted by France in 2016, was won by Portugal, who beat France 1–0 in the final at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis after extra time. The final also attracted 284 million viewers which is the second most viewed game in European tournament history.​

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UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE​

The UEFA Champions League is an annual continental club football competition organised by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) and contested by top-division European clubs. It is one of the most prestigious tournaments in the world and the most prestigious club competition in European football, played by the national league champions (and, for some nations, one or more runners-up) of the strongest UEFA national associations. The UEFA Champions League final is the most watched annual sporting event worldwide. The final of the 2012–13 tournament had the highest TV ratings to date, drawing 360 million television viewers.​

Introduced in 1992, the competition replaced the European Champion Clubs’ Cup, or simply European Cup, which had run since 1955, adding a group stage to the competition and allowing multiple entrants from certain countries. The pre-1992 competition was initially a straight knockout tournament open only to the champion club of each country. During the 1990s, the format was expanded, incorporating a round-robin group stage to include clubs that finished runner-up of some nations’ top-level league. While most of Europe’s national leagues can still only enter their national league champion, Europe’s strongest national leagues now provide up to five teams for the competition. Clubs that finish next-in-line in each nation’s top level league, having not qualified for the UEFA Champions League competition, are eligible for the next-level UEFA Europa League competition.​

In its present format, the UEFA Champions League begins in mid-July with three knockout qualifying rounds and a play-off round. The 10 surviving teams enter the group stage, joining 22 other teams qualified in advance. The 32 teams are drawn into eight groups of four teams and play each other in a double round-robin system. The eight group winners and eight runners-up proceed to the knockout phase that culminates with the final match in May. The winner of the UEFA Champions League qualifies for the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup.​

Real Madrid is the most successful club in the competition’s history, having won the tournament 13 times, including its first five seasons. Spanish clubs have accumulated the highest number of victories (18 wins), followed by England and Italy (12 wins apiece). England has the largest number of winning teams, with five clubs having won the title. The competition has been won by 22 clubs, 12 of which have won it more than once. The reigning champions are Real Madrid, who secured their 13th title in the competition after defeating Liverpool 3–1 in the 2018 final. Thus, they became the first team in the UEFA Champions League era to win the title for three years in a row.

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​UEFA EUROPA LEAGUE​

The UEFA Europa League is an annual football club competition organised by UEFA since 1971 for eligible European football clubs. Clubs qualify for the competition based on their performance in their national leagues and cup competitions.​

Previously called the UEFA Cup, the competition has been known as the UEFA Europa League since the 2009–10 season, following a change in format. For UEFA footballing records purposes, the UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League are considered the same competition, with the change of name being simply a rebranding.​

In 1999, the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup was abolished and merged with the UEFA Cup.[5] For the 2004–05 competition a group stage was added prior to the knockout phase. The 2009 re-branding included a merge with the UEFA Intertoto Cup, producing an enlarged competition format, with an expanded group stage and changed qualifying criteria. The winner of the UEFA Europa League qualifies for the UEFA Super Cup, and since the 2014–15 season the winner of the UEFA Europa League also qualifies for the next edition of the UEFA Champions League. The winner enters at the group stage.​

The title has been won by 28 different clubs, 12 of which have won the title more than once. The most successful club in the competition is Sevilla, with five titles. The current champions are Atlético Madrid, after defeating Marseille in the final to win the 2017–18 UEFA Europa League.​

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CONMEBOL COPA AMERICA​

Copa América (America Cup), known until 1975 as the South American Football Championship (Campeonato Sudamericano de Fútbol in Spanish and Campeonato Sul-americano de Futebol (Portugal) ou Copa Sul-Americana de Futebol (Brazil) in Portuguese), is an international men’s football tournament contested between national teams from CONMEBOL. Held every four years, it is the oldest international continental football competition. The competition determines the continental champion of South America. Since the 1990s, teams from North America and Asia have also been invited to participate.​

Since 1993, the tournament has generally featured 12 teams – all 10 CONMEBOL teams and two additional teams from other confederations. Mexico has participated in every tournament since 1993, with one additional team drawn from CONCACAF, except for 1999, when AFC team Japan filled out the 12-team roster. The 2016 version of the event, Copa América Centenario, featured sixteen teams, with six teams from CONCACAF in addition to the 10 from CONMEBOL. Mexico’s two runner-up finishes are the highest for a non-CONMEBOL side.​

Eight of the ten CONMEBOL national teams have won the tournament at least once in its 45 stagings since the event’s inauguration in 1916, with only Ecuador and Venezuela yet to win. Uruguay has the most championships in the tournament’s history, with 15 cups, while the current champion, Chile, has two cups. Argentina, which hosted the inaugural edition in 1916, has hosted the tournament the most times (nine). The United States is the only non-CONMEBOL country to host, having hosted the event in 2016. On three occasions (in 1975, 1979, and 1983), the tournament was held in multiple South American countries.​

The highest finishing member of CONMEBOL has the right to participate in the next edition of the FIFA Confederations Cup, but is not obliged to do so. Copa América is the third-most popular international football tournament, after the FIFA World Cup and the UEFA European Championships.​

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CONMEBOL COPA LIBERTADORES​

The CONMEBOL Libertadores, named as Copa Libertadores de América (Portuguese: Copa Libertadores da América or Taça Libertadores da América), is an annual international club football competition organized by CONMEBOL since 1960. It is one of the most prestigious tournaments in the world and the most prestigious club competition in South American football. The tournament is named in honor of the Libertadores (Spanish and Portuguese for liberators), the main leaders of the South American wars of independence, so a literal translation of its name into English would be “Liberators of America Cup” or “Liberators of the Americas Cup”.​

The competition has had several different formats over its lifetime. At the beginning, only the champions of the South American leagues participated. In 1966, the runners-up of the South American leagues began to join. In 1998, Mexican teams were invited to compete, and have contested regularly since 2000, when the tournament was expanded from 20 to 32 teams. Today at least four clubs per country compete in the tournament, while Argentina and Brazil each have six clubs participating. Traditionally, a group stage has always been used but the number of teams per group has varied several times.​

In the present format, the tournament consists of six stages, with the first stage taking place in early February. The six surviving teams from the first stage join 26 teams in the second stage, in which there are eight groups consisting of four teams each. The eight group winners and eight runners-up enter the final four stages, better known as the knockout stages, which ends with the finals anywhere between November and December. The winner of the Copa Libertadores becomes eligible to play in the FIFA Club World Cup and the Recopa Sudamericana.​

Independiente of Argentina are the most successful club in the cup’s history, having won the tournament seven times. Argentine clubs have accumulated the most victories with 24 wins, while Brazil has the largest number of different winning teams, with a total of 10 clubs having won the title. The cup has been won by 24 different clubs, 13 of which have won the title more than once, and won consecutively by six clubs.​

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​CONMEBOL COPA SUDAMERICANA​

The CONMEBOL Sudamericana, named as Copa Sudamericana (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈkopa suðameɾiˈkana]; Portuguese: Copa Sul-Americana is an annual international club football competition organized by the CONMEBOL since 2002. It is the second-most prestigious club competition in South American football. CONCACAF clubs were invited between 2004 and 2008. The CONMEBOL Sudamericana began in 2002, replacing the separate competitions Copa Merconorte and Copa Mercosur (that before replaced Copa CONMEBOL) by a single competition. Since its introduction, the competition has been a pure elimination tournament with the number of rounds and teams varying from year to year.​

The CONMEBOL Sudamericana is considered a merger of defunct tournaments such as the Copa CONMEBOL, Copa Mercosur and Copa Merconorte. The winner of the Copa Sudamericana becomes eligible to play in the Recopa Sudamericana. They gain entry onto the next edition of the Copa Libertadores, South America’s premier club competition. They also contest in the Supercopa Euroamericana and the Suruga Bank Championship.​

The reigning champion of the competition is Argentine club Independiente, who defeated Brazilian club Flamengo in the most recent final.​

Argentine clubs have accumulated the most victories with eight while containing the largest number of different winning teams, with a total of six clubs having won the title. The cup has been won by 11 different clubs. Argentine clubs Boca Juniors and Independiente are the most successful clubs in the cup’s history, having won the tournament twice, with Boca Juniors being the only one to achieve it back-to-back, in 2004 and 2005.​

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