Following the dramatic conclusion of the 2018 Copa Libertadores final, which saw River Plate defeat old foes Boca Juniors to claim the coveted title, South America can now turn its attention to next season’s edition of the continental competition.
The tournament’s preliminary phase, made up of three stages, will kick off on the weekend of 21 January with sixteen teams, of which only four will advance to the group stage. (The two best ‘losers’ of the remaining four teams will automatically qualify for the second stage of the Sudamericana.)
The competition proper gets underway with the beginning of the group stage, which consists of 32 teams subdivided into eight groups. Between March and May, these teams will face off in a round-robin format with each team meeting the other three home and away, with the top two advancing to the round of 16.
At the conclusion of the group stage, a draw will be held in May to determine the bracket for the remainder of the tournament, with teams playing two-legged games from the round of 16 all the way to the final.
The final of the 2019 edition of the Copa Libertadores will be the first in the history of the tournament to played as a one-off game, and will be played at the Estadio Nacional de Santiago, Chile, on 23 November.
Next season could also see the return of Liga MX teams to the competition with CONMEBOL president, Alejandro Dominguez, having stated that he is open to the idea of reintroducing Mexican clubs to the tournament.
Mexican teams had played in the Copa Libertadores between 1998 and 2016, however, due to complications resulting from the Liga MX’s split-season format, they opted out in 2017.
The following teams have stamped their tickets to the promised land of South America’s oldest and most prestigious club competition.
Argentina (7 spots)
After Brazil, Argentina will be the second best represented nation in the 2019 tournament, with Boca Juniors, Godoy Cruz, Rosario Central, San Lorenzo, Huracán and River Plate - the reigning champions - have all securing their passages to the group stage. Meanwhile, Talleres will have to scrap it out in the preliminary rounds.
Bolivia (4 spots)
Wilstermann and CD San José will represent the landlocked nation in the main competition, while The Strongest are through to the second round of qualifiers and Bolivar get their campaign started even sooner when they take on Uruguay's Defensor Sporting on January 23.
Brazil (8 spots)
Palmeiras, Cruzeiro, Flamengo, Internacional and Gremio took Brazil's seven regular allocation spots, while, despite a disappointing domestic season, Atlético Paranaense's victory over Colombian outfit Junior F.C. in the Copa Sudamericana final grants them an automatic berth to the group stage. In the meantime, Sao Paulo and Atlético Mineiro will look to clinch a berth in the main competition when they get underway in the second stage of the qualifiers.
Chile (4 spots)
With the final set to be played in Santiago, Universidad Católica, Universidad de Concepción, Universidad de Chile and Palestino will have added motivation in next season’s competition.
Colombia (4 spots)
Deportes Tolima and Junior F.C. are qualified for the main tournament, while Atlético Nacional and Independiente Medellín will have to scrap it out in the preliminary phase.
Ecuador (4 spots)
Serie A champions Emelec and Quito sealed Ecuador's two automatic spots in the main competition, while Barcelona and Delfín occupy Ecuador’s third and fourth spots.
Paraguay (4 spots)
Olimpia, Cerro Porteño, Libertad and Nacional will be flying the flag for Los Guaraníes.
Peru (4 spots)
Sporting Cristal and Alianza Lima's strong 2018 Torneo Descentralizado campaigns have earned them berths to the group stage, while Melgar and Real Garcilaso are through to the second and first preliminary stages respectively.
Uruguay (4 spots)
Historic heavyweights Peñarol and Nacional are through to the group stage, while Danubio and Defensor Sporting will have to scrap it out in the preliminary stages to book their places.
Venezuela (4 spots)
Primera División champions Zamora and runners-up Deportivo Lara are in the draw for the group stage. Caracas and Deportivo La Guaira will start on the road to Santiago as early as January.