What Is Soccer's Confederations Cup?

2013 Confederations Cup final - Brazil v Spain
Brazil beat Spain 3-0 in the 2013 Confederations Cup final. Laurence Griffiths / Getty Images

The FIFA Confederations Cup is an eight-team international association football (soccer) tournament held every four years. Though it lacks the prestige of a World Cup or a confederation championship like the European Cup or the Copa America, it provides meaningful competition for national teams during an off-summer.

The eight teams always include the reigning champions from the six FIFA confederations, the host nation, and the winner of the most recent World Cup.

History of the Confederations Cup

The Confederations Cup has several ancestors, but the oldest is widely accepted to be the Copa D'Oro, which was held in 1985 and 1993 between the winners of the Copa America and the European champions.

In 1992, Saudi Arabia organized the King Fahd Cup for the first time and invited a few of the regional champions to play a tournament with the Saudi national team. They played the tournament a second time in 1995 before FIFA decided to take over its organization. The first FIFA Confederations Cup took place in Saudi Arabia in 1997 and was played every two years until 2005. FIFA then made the tournament quadrennial.

Dress Rehearsal for the World Cup

Since 1997, the FIFA Confederations Cup has become a dress rehearsal for nations hosting a World Cup the following year. It gives them an opportunity to use many of the World Cup facilities and provides some competition for the host nation, which does not have to go through the World Cup qualifying process.

Prior to the establishment of the Confederation Cup, the World Cup host would have to play friendly games to stay sharp.

Because of intense World Cup qualifying schedules, participation is optional for the South American and European champions. In 1999, for instance, World Cup winner France declined to play in the tournament and was instead replaced by the 1998 runner-up, Brazil.

There can also be some overlap among the qualifying teams, like in 2001 when France was both the reigning European and World Cup champion. In that case, the World Cup runner-up was also invited. The same logic applies to defending confederation champions.

How the Competition Is Organized

The eight teams are split into two round-robin groups, and they play each of the teams in their group. The top teams in each group play the runner-up from the other group. The winners meet for the championship, while the losing teams play for third place.

If a game is tied in a playoff round, the teams play up to two extra periods of 15 minutes each. If the score remains tied, the game is decided by a penalty shoot-out.

Winners of the Confederations Cup

Brazil has won the cup four times, more than any other team. The first two years (1992 and 1995) were actually the King Fahd Cup, but FIFA retroactively recognized the winners as Confederations Cup champions.

  • 1992: Argentina
  • 1995: Denmark
  • 1997: Brazil
  • 1999: Mexico
  • 2001: France
  • 2003: France
  • 2005: Brazil
  • 2009: Brazil
  • 2013: Brazil
  • 2017: Germany