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Is Soccer An Olympic Sport?

Is Soccer An Olympic Sport?

When it comes to soccer, 11 players are part of the team who compete against other team(s) to score goals.

The ball is advanced towards the opponent’s goal to make the scorecard flicker. You honestly just need a ball to play, and that’s the beauty of this sport.

Today, the sport is not just watched, but played across the globe. It is estimated that the game is played by more than 250 million people in over 200 regions and countries. Soccer is also accredited as one of the most watched sporting events.

The crazy stands in the stadiums

Considering so many sporting events take place on and off, it can be extremely overwhelming to keep track of fans.

So, if you are still wondering whether or not soccer is part of the Olympics, well let me tell you, yes, it is!

The Olympics is that time of the year when nations unite to rejoice in sports overall, while their country competes against the world.

The global event takes place after every four years and the spirit, enthusiasm, and love for the event are unfathomable.

When it comes to soccer, national teams who qualify play against each other with the aim to win the gold medal and the competition is fierce and nerve wrecking.

People from across the globe unite and root for their country. The zeal and passion are simply magnificent.

What year did soccer become an Olympic sport?

What’s the biggest soccer event? You must be thinking about the FIFA World Cup, right?

Well, to burst your bubble – Olympic soccer has a longer history where the sporting event has been played at almost every Game since Paris 1900.

The 1900 Paris Olympic Games had the most bizarre events imaginable

On the contrary, the first FIFA World Cup was held in 1930.

The only time soccer was not part of the Olympics game was when the event took place in Los Angeles in 1932.

Olympics was the place where amateurs participated with the aim to take the throne and win medals for their country. This format was followed until Los Angeles 1984 after which professional players also started participating in different sports.

This game became an international pivot point for showcasing young talent and the competition started to garner the interest of the masses.

In the 1992 Barcelona Games, a new rule was implemented to allow younger, talented players to take the platform. The maximum age limit was set to 23 to encourage the participation of the young players.

Spectacular Spain take Gold - Men's Football | Barcelona 1992 Olympics

The 1996 Games in Atlanta changed the entire landscape of the Olympics.

In the 1996 Atlanta Games, the organization board allowed national soccer teams to include three players older than 23 to allow a few STAR players to take part in the competition. 

The event also saw the inclusion of women’s national soccer teams and there is no age limit or restriction for women’s national soccer teams.

Women’s soccer as part of the Games has vastly contributed to its rampant development and popularity across the globe.

Is soccer an Olympic sport?

Top Olympic Football Goals

Yes, indeed!

The exuberance and extravagance of the Olympics can be judged from the fact that it provides a platform for countries across the globe to unite and compete for the love of sports.

Soccer has been an integral part of the Games ever since the Olympics started taking place in 1900 in Paris. Every four years, athletes from qualified countries showcase their abilities to make their nation proud.

Let’s further dive deep to understand how the Games work.

How many soccer teams are in the Olympics?

How many soccer teams are in the Olympics? 16 for men's soccer and 12 for women's soccer

Ever since soccer’s inclusion in the Olympics back in 1900, there has been a different number of participating teams. Only men’s national soccer teams used to compete in the Games until 1996.

As of 2021, there are 16 teams for men’s Olympic soccer while 12 teams for women’s Olympic soccer.

The number of teams for women’s competition has increased over the years. In 1996, Olympic women’s soccer featured only eight teams. The number was increased by two where 10 teams were allowed to participate in 2000. In 2008, the number of teams expanded to 12.

Who qualifies for Olympic soccer?

Soccer has been a part of the Games for over a century now. But do you know which teams qualify to compete in the Olympics?

First and foremost, the host nation at every Olympics is rewarded automatic qualification for the soccer competition.

So, now how does qualification work for the remaining 15 and 12 teams for the men and women categories respectively?

Football Associations work differently to determine which nation qualifies for the Games. Regional bodies such as UEFA and CONMEBOL have planned a qualification route to determine ‘which’ and ‘how’ each nation will be eligible for qualification.

The qualification routes are also different for both men and women as set by the respective associations.

To explain you better, let’s take The Union of European Football Associations (or UEFA) as an example.

For Men’s Olympic soccer qualification, UEFA uses the Under-21 EURO competition to determine the qualifying teams. The final four teams in the competition participate in the Games.

However, for Women’s Olympic soccer qualification, a different national tournament is used as the path of qualification. The top three teams in the Women’s World Cup are rewarded with Olympic soccer qualifications.

Women's World Cup 2019: our quick guide to the tournament

Similarly, CONMEBOL arranges a Pre-Olympic Tournament for men and the finalists get the qualification places. For women, the winner of Copa America gets to play in Olympic soccer.

Have a look at the full breakdown where you can see how each regional body has defined a qualification path.

For Men:

  • Host Nation: Automatic Qualification – 1 Berth
  • European Nations (UEFA): UEFA European Under 21 Championship – 4 Berths
  • Oceanian Nations (Oceania Football Confederation / OFC): OFC Men’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament – 1 Berth
  • African Nations (Confederation of African Football / CAF): Africa U-23 Cup of Nations – 3 Berths
  • Asian Nations (Asian Football Confederation / AFC): AFC U-23 Championship – 3 Berths
  • South American Nations (CONMEBOL): CONMEBOL Pre-Olympic Tournament – 2 Berths
  • North American Nations (CONCACAF): CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Championship – 2 Berths

For Women:

  • Host Nation: Automatic Qualification – 1 Berth
  • European Nations (UEFA): FIFA Women’s World Cup – 3 Berths
  • Oceanian Nations (Oceania Football Confederation / OFC): OFC Nations Cup – 1 Berth
  • African Nations (Confederation of African Football / CAF): CAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament – 1 Berth
  • Asian Nations (Asian Football Confederation / AFC): AFC Olympic Qualifying Tournament – 2 Berths
  • South American Nations (CONMEBOL): Copa America – 1 Berth
  • North American Nations (CONCACAF): CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Championship – 2 Berths
  • CAF / CONMEBOL: CAF-CONMEBOL play-off – 1 Berth

Note: Gold medal winners do not gain automatic qualification for the next Games. All nations have to go through the same qualification path set by their respective associations.

What is the age limit for Olympic soccer? Is u23 an Olympic soccer?

Why Olympic Soccer Has an Age Limit

Since the beginning, the Olympics has always been the idea to promote young talent. Until the Los Angeles 1984 Games, the committee only allowed amateurs to participate in different sporting events.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) brought changes to the 1992 Games. The IOC decided to set the maximum age of participants to 23. Therefore, U-23 is ‘definitely’ considered as Olympic soccer. (please consult here)

In 1996, the participating national teams were allowed to include ONLY three over-age players in the squad. So, each national team can pick 22 players for their squad where 19 players must be 23 years old or under.

If you are thinking there must be some reason behind the age limit for the men’s tournament, you are correct!

FIFA wants to keep its flagship tournament’s value intact for which both parties (FIFA and IOC) have shaken hands on the age restriction.

The soccer organization does not want to have a rival tournament in the form of Men’s Olympic Soccer, and to prevent identical competitions – only U-23 players are allowed to play for their national teams with three exceptions.

Soccer at the Olympics is a playground for talented young players but few people know about them

Even then, you would not see many star players featuring for their national teams. Why?

There are several reasons why you do not see players like Ronaldo, Messi, Neymar, and more participating on behalf of their countries. Here are a few:

  • In the world of soccer, Olympic soccer is not considered important. Therefore, players focus on playing for their clubs rather than playing for their nations.
  • Olympic soccer is not an official event of FIFA which means domestic leagues do not stop during the event. And, it’s on the soccer clubs if they wish to allow player(s) to play for their national teams. For instance, Brazil was keen to include Neymar in the squad but PSG did not grant permission.
  • It is a platform for younger talent, and not many star players such as Ronaldo or Messi would like to take the limelight away from them.

However, this is not the case for Women’s Olympic soccer. There is no age restriction or limitation for women’s teams.

What country has won the most gold medals in soccer?

The United States of America!

The women’s US soccer team has won the most gold medals in Olympic soccer. The most gold medals in the men’s category belong to Hungary and Great Britain with a tally of three.

Let’s take a look at the medal winners over the years for both men and women soccer teams in the Olympics.


Men’s Soccer Team






3 (1952, 1964, 1968)1 (1972)1 (1960)
Great Britain3 (1900, 1908, 1912)0



2 (2016, 2020)3 (1984, 1988, 2012)2 (1996, 2008)
Argentina2 (2004, 2008)2 (1928, 1996)


Soviet Union2 (1956, 1988)03 (1972, 1976, 1980)
Uruguay2 (1924, 1928)00
Yugoslavia1 (1960)3 (1948, 1952, 1956)1 (1984)
Spain1 (1992)3 (1920, 2000, 2020)0
Poland1 (1972)2 (1976, 1992)0
East Germany1 (1976)1 (1980)1 (1972)
Nigeria1 (1996)1 (2008)1 (2016)
France1 (1984)1 (1990)0
Czechoslovakia1 (1980)1 (1964)0
Italy1 (1936)02 (1928, 2004)
Sweden1 (1948)02 (1924, 1952)
Belgium1 (1920)01 (1900)
Mexico1 (2012)01 (2020)
Canada1 (1904)00
Cameroon1 (2000)00

Women’s Soccer Team

USWNT4 (1996, 2004, 2008, 2012)1 (2000)1 (2020)
Germany1 (2016)03 (2000, 2004, 2008)
Canada1 (2020)02 (2012, 2016)
Norway1 (2000)01 (1996)

Who won the first soccer Olympics? Who won the last Olympics soccer?

Soccer has been a part of the Games since 1900 in Paris. The first ever soccer Olympics was won by Great Britain in 1900. The soccer team, thus far, has won three gold medals in soccer (also the joint leader alongside Hungary with most gold medals).

Brazil won the Gold medal in the 2020 Olympic soccer.

The women’s US national soccer team won the first Olympic soccer in 1996. They ended their campaign with a Bronze in the 2020 Games. Canada took the gold!

Will soccer be in the 2021 Olympics?

Yes, soccer was one of the sporting events for the 2021 Olympics. Both men and women soccer teams participated to bring Gold back home.

Brazil (men) and Canada (women) won gold medals for their country in the last Olympic soccer.

Did US men’s soccer qualify for the 2020 Olympics?

Why the United States FAILED to Qualify for the Olympics

Unfortunately, the US men’s soccer team failed to qualify for the 2020 Olympics. This was the third consecutive time the nation has failed to participate in Olympic soccer.

This time, the US men’s soccer team faced a 2-1 defeat against Honduras in the semi-final of CONCACAF.

The USMNT has also missed the last four of the five Olympic soccer.

Who won the soccer Olympics 2012? Who won the soccer Olympics in 2016?

Since 2004, South American men’s soccer teams have been dominant in Olympic soccer. FIVE gold medals in the past six games have been won by South American soccer teams.

For Men: Mexico won the gold medal in 2012 after defeating Brazil in what was a nail-biting match. The scoreline was 2-1 in favor of Mexico.

In 2016, Brazil retained the Gold medal after convincingly beating Germany in a 4-2 triumph.

For Women: The USWNT has been the dominant force in Olympic soccer since the inclusion of the women’s team in 1996. The USA won the gold medal in 2012 in an impressive final against Japan. 

In 2016, Germany women’s national soccer team was crowned gold for the first time in Olympic soccer.

Every Brazil men's football goal at Rio 2016 | Top Moments

When did Mexico win the Olympics in soccer?

Mexico has won gold only once in Olympic soccer in 2012. The national soccer team faced Brazil in a very tight match.

With all the talent on Brazil’s side, Mexico soccer team bagged a 2-1 victory to claim the gold medal.

Has Brazil won the Olympics in soccer?

No matter if it is FIFA World Cup, Copa America, or Olympics – Brazil has been a name that frightens the majority of the opponents.

With exceptional talent and experience on their side, Brazil is one of the soccer teams not many are comfortable facing.

Brazil has won 2 gold medals, 3 silver medals, and 2 bronze medals in Olympic soccer. (please consult here)

Brazil has won 2 gold medals, 3 silver medals, and 2 bronze medals in Olympic soccer

What women’s soccer teams are in the Olympics?

Since 1996, many women’s soccer teams have taken part in the Games. Initially only eight teams were allowed to participate, but the number now has risen to include 12 national soccer teams.

In the last Olympic soccer (2020), the following teams played the tournament:

  • Japan
  • Canada
  • Great Britain
  • Chile
  • China PR
  • Brazil
  • Zambia
  • Netherlands
  • Sweden
  • USA
  •  Australia
  • New Zealand

What country won the 1st women’s Olympic gold medal in soccer?

The US women’s national soccer team won the first gold medal in soccer after defeating China in the final in 1996.

Is USA soccer in the Olympics? Is US women’s soccer going to the Olympics?

The US national soccer teams, both men and women, have been an integral part of the Games since its inception (1996 for the women’s team). They have participated in numerous events; however,  fate has not been in favor of USMNT in recent times.

a women soccer match

The USMN did not qualify for the 2020 Olympics and has failed to qualify for the last four of the five Games.

On the contrary, the US women’s national soccer team has been actively participating since women’s soccer inclusion in the Games in 1996. The team even bagged a bronze medal in the 2020 Olympic soccer.

Why is soccer not in the Olympics?

Soccer is one of the most watched and loved sports in the world. Arguably the biggest sport, it is impossible for soccer to not be a part of the Olympics.

Soccer has been a part of the Olympics for over a century, and it will stay as one of the sporting events in the Games. The number of people, fans, and viewership it brings are immense.

Men’s soccer made its debut in 1900 while women’s soccer became a part in 1996. The only time when soccer was not part of the Games was in 1932 where a disagreement between two regulatory bodies, IOC and FIFA, saw the exclusion of this sporting event.

Summer Olympics -1932 | Today In History | 30 July 18

Apparently, FIFA and IOC could not come to an agreement regarding amateur regulations which resulted in soccer not being a part of 1932 the Games.

However, only the U-23 national sides alongside three over-age players participate as both FIFA and IOC have a gentlemen’s agreement to not diminish the premier status of FIFA World Cup.


No matter what tournament, soccer is a sport watched by billions across the globe. It has the power to unite people who get together to support their national teams in different tournaments.

With a relation of more than 100 years, soccer has been a part of the Olympics for longer than FIFA World Cup. With the first event taking place in 1900, soccer has featured in almost every Game since then.

Now, both men’s and women’s national soccer teams participate with the aim to win medals for their countries. In our blog post, we have mentioned everything you need to know about the Olympics and soccer.