Competitive exclusion can be classified as deterministic or as historically contingent. While competitive exclusion is common in nature, it has remained unclear when multispecies communities formed by more than two species should be dominated by deterministic or contingent exclusion. Here, we take a fully parameterised model of an empirical competitive system between invasive annual and native perennial plant species to explain both the emergence and sources of competitive exclusion in multispecies communities. Using a structural approach to understand the range of parameters promoting deterministic and contingent exclusions, we then find heuristic theoretical support for the following three general conclusions. First, we find that the life-history of perennial species increases the probability of observing contingent exclusion by increasing their effective intrinsic growth rates. Second, we find that the probability of observing contingent exclusion increases with weaker intraspecific competition, and not with the level of hierarchical competition. Third, we find a shift from contingent exclusion to deterministic exclusion with increasing numbers of competing species. Our work provides a heuristic framework to increase our understanding about the predictability of species persistence within multispecies communities.