Histories of Continental Championships around the World

July 29, 2016

As the Copa América Centenario is set to kick off this summer, it is important not to forget about the histories of the other continental soccer federations that serve as the governing bodies for their respective nations’ regions around the globe. Save Antarctica, every continental region on Earth is home to its own federation, which are subsidiaries of FIFA, the governing body of international soccer around the globe. Just like CONMEBOL, the South American soccer federation, each continent hosts their own respective tournaments to determine which country in that region is their true king of soccer.

UEFA - Union des Associations Européennes de Football –Despite the popular misconception that the sport was created in England, the English created only the term “football,” which the entire world uses to refer to the sport except the notably obstinate United States, in the 1800s as a game that is not played on horseback, such as rugby (rugby football) and soccer (association football). The true origins of the sport, however, remain disputed.1 The European soccer federation instead began in Basel, Switzerland on June 15, 1954. In 1960, the organization had only three full-time staffers, but that number has risen substantially to 535 as of July 2015. UEFA’s tournament, the Euro Cup, runs on a quadrennial schedule, and will play their next tournament this summer in France. The organization currently serves as the governing body of 54 nations, including Russia.2

AFC – Asian Football Confederation – Home of 46 Member Associations in Asia, the Middle East, and the Oceanic region, and one Associate Member Association, The Northern Mariana Islands, the AFC was first established in 1954 in Manila in The Philippines. On June 21 of that year, the AFC was officially sanctioned by FIFA as an international sports federation. With its headquarters now sitting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the AFC organizes several club tournaments, including the AFC Champions League and the AFC Cup, but its premier tournament is the international AFC Asian Cup, which was last won and hosted by Australia in 2015. The next edition of the tournament will come to the United Arab Emirates in 2019.3

CAF – Confédération Africaine de Football – Oddly enough, the foundation of the CAF did not begin in Africa, but rather in Europe, when Portugal hosted the FIFA Congress in Lisbon in 1956. Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, and South Africa were the attending African representatives. FIFA had already recognized Africa as a confederation in 1954, but it was not until 1957 when the four nations’ representatives convened in Khartoum, Sudan that the first Africa Cup of Nations was established. That very same year, Egypt won the inaugural tournament in a competition consisting of just the four founding nations. Now, the CAF governs over 56 nations’ soccer squads in a typically biennial tournament, with the next coming in 2017.4

OFC – Oceania Football Confederation – By far the smallest federation in surface area and the second smallest in number of member associations, with the only federation with less is South America’s CONMEBOL, which has 10 member nations, the OFC was founded in 1966 by Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, and Papua New Guinea. However, the foundation of the OFC only came to fruition when Australia and New Zealand were originally rejected membership by the Asian Football Confederation. Although Australia has since left the OFC to join the AFC, the federation’s 11 members continue to hold its continental tournament, the Nations Cup, on a sporadic, but currently quadrennial, schedule. The next Nations Cup will begin on May 28, 2016, and will conclude on November 6.5

CONCACAF – Confederation of North, Central American, and Caribbean Association Football – In 1961, the CONCACAF was formed as a merger between the two existing federations of the region, the CCCF (Football Confederation of Central America and the Caribbean) and the NAFC (North American Football Confederation), and is currently the region’s governing body of 40 member associations. The federations plays the host of several international competitions, and usually has members that compete in the Copa América tournament in South America. This year’s Copa América Centenario will feature six CONCACAF teams. The premier tournament for the federation, however, is the Gold Cup, a biennial 12-team tournament, with Mexico’s seven titles making it the most successful nation in the tournament. Their last victory came in 2015, as they defeated Jamaica 3-1. The next tournament will not take place until 2017.6

While the winners of each regional soccer federation are rightfully crowned the continental champion, the tournaments also serve the role as a qualifier for the FIFA Confederations Cup, which will take place in Russia in 2017 as a precursor to the 2018 World Cup. Generally, the winner of each continental tournament is granted admission to the quadrennial tournament, save CONCACAF, which pits the previous two winners against one another in a single-game playoff to determine the region’s representative. The 2015 champion, Mexico, defeated the 2013 champion, the United States, to move forward. The centenary edition of the Copa América, although it is a continental tournament, will not serve as a qualifier for the Confederations Cup, as 2015 champion, Chile, has already secured its place in the bracket.7


1.      Karon, Tony. “No, England Did NOT Invent Football (Soccer) As We Know It.” Time. 2 Apr. 2012. Available at: http://keepingscore.blogs.time.com/2012/04/02/no-england-did-not-invent-football-soccer-as-we-know-it/

2.      UEFA and all supporting information available at: http://www.uefa.org/

3.      AFC and all supporting information available at: http://www.the-afc.com/

4.      CAF and all supporting information available at: http://www.cafonline.com/en-us/home.aspx

5.      OFC and all supporting information available at: http://www.oceaniafootball.com/ofc/Home/tabid/38/language/en-US/Default.aspx

6.      CONCACAF and all supporting information available at: http://www.concacaf.com/

7.      “FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017.” FIFA. 2016. Available at: http://www.fifa.com/confederationscup/teams/index.html

About Author(s)

Asa Equels's picture
Asa Equels
Asa Equels is a junior undergraduate at the University of Pittsburgh studying Hispanic Languages and Literatures, as well as pursuing a Certificate in Latin American Studies. He is a member of the university's Cross Country and Track and Field teams. After graduation, Asa plans on continuing his education in graduate school, and hopes to become a teacher/professor and cross country/track coach.