In 1987, the CBF announced it had no financial conditions to organize the Brazilian football championship, a mere few weeks before it was scheduled to begin. As a result, the thirteen most popular football clubs in Brazil created a league, dubbed the Club of the 13, to organize a championship of their own. This tournament was called Copa União and was run by the 16 clubs that eventually took part in it (Santa Cruz, Coritiba and Goiás were invited to join), completely free from CBF authority (a move not unlike the creation of club-administered leagues in Europe). The CBF initially stood by the Club of the 13 decision. However, weeks later, with the competition already underway, and under pressure from football clubs excluded from the Copa União, the CBF adopted a new set of rules, which considered the Copa União part of a larger tournament, comprising other 16 smaller teams. According to that new set of rules, the Copa União would be dubbed the Green Module of the CBF championship, whereas the other 16 teams would play the Yellow Module. In the end, the first two teams of each Module would play each other to define the national champions and the two teams that would represent Brazil in the Copa Libertadores in 1988. However, that new set of rules was never recognized by the Club of the 13 and largely ignored by most of the Brazilian media, who concentrated their attention in the independent league, eventually won by Clube de Regatas do Flamengo.
The Copa União was a single round robin from which four teams would qualify for the semifinals. Clube dos 13 signed sponsoring contracts with Coca-Cola and Rede Globo, which guaranteed the clubs would be paid unprecedented rates for TV broadcasts.
CBF initially agreed to grant the 1987 national title to the Copa União winners. However it eventually backed off due to pressure from smaller clubs, mainly the ones that were excluded from the championship, and also due to the prospect of forever losing control of the national championship. CBF then announced, with Copa União already taking place, that the national championship would be decided in a run-off between the two best teams of the Copa União and the two best teams of a tournament congregating smaller teams (which the CBF dubbed the "Yellow Module"). The move was rejected Clube dos 13, which announced none of its members would take part in the play-off. Most of the media and the public opinion sided with them.
The Copa União was a huge success both in terms of stadium attendance and TV audience, and also for the quality of football that was displayed. Having barely qualified for the semifinals, Flamengo went on to eliminate favorite Atlético Mineiro with two historic wins, 1-0 at the Estádio do Maracanã and 3-2 at the Mineirão. In the final round, the Rio de Janeiro side became the champions after a 1-1 draw in Porto Alegre and a 1-0 victory at the Maracanã over Internacional.
Among Flamengo's starting eleven that year, only one player, Aílton, has never played for the Brazilian national football team. The side consisted of such famous players as Zico, Bebeto, Jorginho, Zé Carlos (goalkeeper), Leandro, Edinho, Leonardo, Andrade, Zinho and Renato Gaúcho, who was elected the best player in the tournament.
Consistent with the Clube dos 13 decision, both Flamengo and Internacional refused to face Sport Recife and Guarani—who had agreed to share the Yellow Module title—in the final play-off CBF had convened. Since Flamengo and Internacional did not show up, the CBF championship finals consisted only of a rematch of the Yellow Module finals. In the first game, in Campinas, both teams tied 1-1. On February 7, 1988, Sport beat Guarani 1-0 and was declared the 1987 national champions by the CBF. Most of the media and the public opinion, however, did not give much credit to Sport's claim to the title, and considered Flamengo the Brazilian champions of that year.
Clube dos 13 and the National Sports Council (CND), the entity legally in charge of settling the dispute at the time, before the 1988 Constitution, considered Flamengo to be the 1987 Brazilian Champions. CBF, however, declared Sport to be the national champions, and the club, along with Guarani, represented Brazil in the 1988 Copa Libertadores de América.
- "Copa União 1987 e Clube dos 13 a linha do tempo e do dinheiro" (in Portuguese). Lance!. Retrieved July 21, 2013.
- Final resolution of the presidency of CBF for the 1987 Campeonato Brasileiro Série A
- 1987 Campeonato Brasileiro Série A at RSSSF
- List of champions of the Campeonato Brasileiro Série A at Soccerway