Visceral leishmaniasis (VL) is endemic in 70 countries and has been reported in 12 countries of Latin America, with over 90% of the cases reported in Brazil, where epidemics have occurred since 1980. The objective of this review is to describe the factors associated with the occurrence of VL epidemics in humans in urban areas. A systematic review was conducted according to the PRISMA-P guidelines. The databases PubMed (by Medline), Cochrane Library, Embase, Amed, LILACS and grey literature [Google Scholar and handsearch of the database of the Information System for Notifiable Diseases (SINAN) of Brazil's Unified Health System] were used. The protocol was registered under PROSPERO (CRD42019128998). Climatic, environmental factors and indicators of urban social structure were described as influencing the outbreaks in the North and Northeast regions. Gender and age characteristics were related to a greater chance of developing VL in the Central-West, Northeast and Southeast regions. Vector indicators showed a positive correlation with the incidence of VL in studies in the Northeast region. In the Southeast and Northeast regions, studies revealed the presence of dogs with positive correlation with VL. Knowledge gaps remain regarding the contribution to the increase in the risk factors described in ecological approaches, as no analysis was performed at the individual level, and it is still necessary to discuss the influence of other associated elements in epidemic episodes in the spread of VL.