Despite being nestled between the football powerhouses of Brazil and Argentina, Uruguay has itself proven to be a strong football nation in their own right. This comes right down to the domestic level too. What you will find is that some of the country’s biggest sides have gone through eras that have made them nigh-on untouchable. This comes mainly through the thriving football scene in Montevideo – where over half of the top sides in Uruguay play. This generates a scene where intense rivalries decide championships every season with fans screaming from the stands. So just who are the most successful sides in Uruguayan football?
Montevideo Wanderers – 3 titles
Inspired by the success of early British clubs, Montevideo Wanderers were formed in the late 19th century just as football buzz took hold of the entire country. It was during these early years where the Wanderers found their success. They took two titles home in the 1900s winning the Primera Division in both 1906 and 1909. They would later take another time home in 1931 but success has evaded them since that last trophy over 90 years ago.
River Plate – 4 titles
Named after the adjacent estuary, the Uruguayan River Plate dominated the early years of Uruguayan football. They dominated the Primera Division in the early 20th century winning 4 titles in the space of 6 years. After winning their first trophy in 1908, they would repeat the feat in 1910 before winning back to back titles in 1913 and 1914. However, the club’s fate would soon be sealed as they join an ill-fated breakaway league in 1923 only to be banished from the top-flight and fold in 1925.
Danubio – 4 titles
Danubio’s success is rooted in modern-day football despite being founded in 1932. After bouncing around the various upper levels of Uruguayan football, Danubio truly became a top side in the 1980s where they claimed their first title in 1988. It was a golden age that saw the side reach the Copa Libertadores last four in 1989 although it would be two more decades before their next title. This came in 2004 which started the club’s most successful era. They would win the 2007 title after being the first side in over a decade to win both the Aperatura and Clausura sides of the league. Their last success would then be 2014 after a last-minute goal gave them the title over Montevideo Wanderers.
Defensor Sporting – 4 titles
Long considered one of the top three sides in Uruguay, Defensor have been a regular title threat since the 1970s. They were relative unknowns for the first half of the 20th century but that all changed when they took their first title in 1976. Since then, Defensor would secure at least one league title for the next three decades. Thanks to a healthy youth system, the club nurtured future stars to help them win titles in 1987, 1991 and then in 2008. It has established Defensor as one of the country’s biggest sides even if major silverware avoided them in the 2010s.
Nacional – 48 titles
One of Uruguay’s top sides, arguably no team has been consistently dangerous as Nacional have been since their formation in 1899. The side have won multiple trophies in every decade since winning their first Primera Division trophy in 1902. Their dominance has held throughout the 20th century including winning 5 straight titles from 1939-43. There was more prolonged success in the early 1970s where they won 4 titles from 1969-1973 as well as claiming the first of three Copa Libertadores titles in 1971. The 21st century has been just as kind to Los Bolso winning 14 titles since 2000 – making them the most successful in Uruguay this century so far. A telling legacy for anyone just being introduced to the club.
Penarol – 51 titles
It’s hard to think that Uruguay’s most successful club started off life as a cricket club. Formed by the nation’s railway workers in 1891, Penarol’s footballing operations soon became the sporting club’s main arm and with great effect. After winning the very first league title in 1900, they would often claim titles with ease throughout the early 1900s including winning 4 straight trophies from 1935-1938. However, Penarol’s major breakthrough came in the 1950s and 1960s winning 9 titles between 1958-1968 as well as claiming 3 Copa Libertadores wins within the same period. They would echo a similar domestic dominance in the 1990s winning 6 titles in 7 years from 1993-1999 before a drought as the 21st century dawned. There have been some more successes in recent times with titles in 2017,2018 and 2021 taking them past arch-rivals Nacional to become the most successful side in Uruguayan football history.