Our Copa America beginner’s guide explains everything about the top South American international tournament.

Copa América is the championship for South American national teams. Now held every four years, it pits the ten CONMEBOL nations against each other, usually with a few guest teams invited to participate.

The tournament is the second-most prestigious honor for South American teams, after winning the World Cup. It is equivalent to Europe’s UEFA Euro competition, the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the Africa Cup of Nations, and other continental championships.

Copa America beginner’s guide

Format

The present competition format is fairly straightforward. Teams are broken into groups for the initial round-robin phase, and then an eight-team single-elimination knockout bracket commences.

Depending on the number of teams in the competition, the group stage can vary. For example, as no guest teams participated in the 2021 Copa America, there were two five-team groups. Each team therefore played four group games, and the top four from each group made it to the knockout stage.

However, for 2026, there are sixteen teams, so a more manageable four-groups-of-four setup will be used. The top two teams in each group will advance, after playing three games, similar to the World Cup format.

While group games can end in a tie, awarding one point (teams get three points for a win), knockout stage matches need a winner.

In the final, if the match is tied after 90 minutes, two additional 15-minute halves will be played in their entirety. Should the game remain tied, a penalty shootout will take place. For all other knockout games, extra time will not be played and tied games will go directly to penalty kicks.

The PK shootout consists of five rounds with the team scoring the most goals declared the winner. Should the shootout be tied after five rounds, sudden death will begin, one round at a time, until a winner emerges.

History

Copa America started way back in 1916, which makes it the oldest still-running soccer competition of its kind in the world. Argentina hosted the first-ever tournament but finished as runners-up to Uruguay. This would be the start of the two nations’ battle as top sides in the tournament.

For many years, a simple round-robin format was used, but now the more common group stage plus knockout rounds are utilized.

In 1975, the current name of “Copa América” was used for the first time. Previously, the competition was called the South American Championship.

Every Copa América except two has been hosted in South America. In 2016, a special “Cenentario” edition was staged in the United States to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the competition. In 2024. the tournament returns to the USA, but this time as part of the normal rotation.

Notable achievements

Argentina and Uruguay each have 15 titles, the most overall. Brazil has nine to its name. Paraguay, Chile, and Peru (2 each), as well as Bolivia and Colombia (1 each) have also won the championship. Ecuador and Venezuela are the only two CONMEBOL sides to date that have not won the competition, nor have they appeared in a final.

Mexico, however, has finished in second place twice, in two of their many guest appearances. This is the best performance ever of any guest team, and the only time a guest team has made it to the final.

How to watch

If you’re in the USA, you can watch Copa América in a few different places, depending on what language you’re looking for.

FOX Sports (FOX, FS1, FS2) has English-language rights. For Spanish coverage, look to Telemundo Deportes (Telemundo, Universo, Peacock.

Fubo has all of these networks, as well as DirecTV Stream.

In addition, with the 2024 competition in the USA, games will all be played at convenient, prime-time evening kick-off times.

Check out our Copa América TV schedule page for complete listings of all the games.

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Copa América 2024

Here are some resources to get you ready for Copa!
Copa América Schedule: Full schedule of all games for the 2024 tournament
How to watch: Information on where to find the games on TV and streaming
How to Stream Learn how you can stream Copa games live in 2024
Key Dates: Learn All the important dates to mark on your calendar
Copa (United States of) América: South America's biggest tournament comes back to the USA
2024 Soccer Calendar: Get the lowdown on what will be a busy year in soccer