Construction on the National Sports Complex started in 1963 and was completed in 1964. The architect Vann Molyvann made use of massive earthworks to create the stadium, digging up 500,000 cubic meters of earth to shape the grounds.
The stadium might have been built to host the 1963 Southeast Asian Peninsular Games, but the games were cancelled due to political problems in Cambodia.
The stadium played a small part in the 1966 FIFA World Cup. Unexpectedly, North Korea faced Australia in a qualifier. Because North Korea lacked dipomatic relations with most countries, finding a suitable venue for the match proved difficult, until Head of State Norodom Sihanouk, an ally of Kim Il-sung, said the matches could be held in Phnom Penh. The matches attracted 40,000 fans, with Sihounouk decreeing half would cheer for Australia, while the other half cheered the Koreans. The matches were held on 21 November 1965 and on 24 November 1965 with North Korea winning both (6–1 and 3–1). Because South Korea and all African teams had withdrawn in protests against FIFA, North Korea were thus directly qualified to the final tournament, where they reached the quarter-final.
During the Khmer Rouge era, the stadium was used as the site of executions by the Khmer Rouge of officials in the administration of Lon Nol.
In the decades following the Khmer Rouge era, the stadium facilities fell into disrepair. In 2000 the stadium complex was redeveloped by a Taiwanese firm, the Yuanta Group, which refurbished the stadium but also redeveloped parcels of the complex into condominiums and commercial properties.
Currently it is under threat of being demolished at Phnom Penh undergoes rapid development.