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Richest Copa Libertadores gets started with Brazilian teams the favorites to win

Competitions Director of Conmebol Frederico Nantes, center, holds a paper with the name of Argentina's Rosario Central during the Copa Libertadores draw in Luque, Paraguay, Monday, March 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Jorge Saenz)

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — The group stage of the 2024 Copa Libertadores kicked off Tuesday with much more at stake than a place in the playoffs of the most prestigious club tournament in South America.

More than $225 million in prizes — including $23 million for the champion — will make the 65th edition the richest in the tournament's history.

Brazilian clubs have lifted the latest five Copa Libertadores titles, and they are once again the favorites. Flamengo won in 2019 and 2022, Palmeiras rose to the top in 2020 and 2021, and Fluminense secured its first-ever trophy last year.

Palmeiras, which has reached the semifinals in the last four seasons, will rely on 17-year-old striker Endrick, who scored two goals for Brazil's national team last week in friendlies against England and Spain. Endrick will leave for Real Madrid next season.

Flamengo entrusts former Brazil coach Tite to win his second title in the tournament, with some help from Uruguay midfielder Nicolás de la Cruz, brought from River Plate for $16 million. Fluminense hopes to defend its championship led by coach Fernando Diniz and striker German Cano.

Argentina's capital of Buenos Aires will host the final on Dec. 30 in the hopes that River Plate, the four-time champion and latest non-Brazilian team to lift the trophy, can win at home. Its rival Boca Juniors will be playing in the Copa Sudamericana, which also started on Tuesday.

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AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer