Is Soccer an Olympic Sport? (History – Winners – Rules)

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Soccer is an Olympic sport and has been since 1900. It was in 1996 when the women’s teams were allowed to compete. 

The Olympics is a time for nations to unite while their country competes against the world. This togetherness is unique every four years when the Olympics takes part.

Normally in soccer, teams throughout the country play against one another, and the competition are fierce. We can now put our allegiances aside as your friends and family are rooting for the country.

It’s funny to see those players that have put in strong tackles now playing side by side while their country is the priority. It’s nice for players to put aside their differences and play together and celebrate.

Without the Olympics and national side, the players and fans would not put aside their differences, and the rivalry would be non-stop. So it’s a pleasure when these competitions come around. 

CARSON CA SEPT 16 USA Womens National Team starting eleven before the U.S. Soccer Womens National Team Olympic 2012 Victory Tour match against Australia on Sept 16 2012 at the Home Depot Center ○ Soccer Blade

Is soccer an Olympic Sport?

It was four years after the first modern Olympics when soccer was introduced in 1900 and the women’s teams were not introduced into the games until 1996.

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There were only three teams that took part in the first Olympic soccer competition and there were only two games played. 

The First Soccer Olympics

The Olympic games were first held in honor of Zeus in 776 BC. Zeus was regarded as a father to the gods and goddesses in those days.

The countries that competed were as far as Spain, which was some distance to travel back then. It was only males that competed in the games. 

First Olympic soccer team Great Britain at Upton Park - Is soccer an olympic sport?
First Olympic soccer team Great Britain at Upton Park

Like the modern Olympics, they were held every four years and one of the most popular events was the 600m race around the stadium.

The events took place for 12 centuries; the games were then revitalized in 1896 in Athens in Greece, when 34 countries took part. It was only in 1928 when the first Olympic torch was used.

Winner of the First Soccer Olympics

The winner of the first Olympics in 1900 was Great Britain. The competition was not in order, and clubs represented the participating countries.

The club that played for GB was Upton Park FC. In second place France and Belgium in third. The game took place in France that year. 

Why’re there not many soccer teams at the Olympics?

After the qualifying round, there are only 16 teams that took place in the finals of the competition. Britain only recently took part in the 2012 games hosted in London as a one-off.

They fear that by competing at the game the UEFA will remove their privilege to play as separate countries in the other competitions.

Currently, the soccer Olympics is not one of the major competing competitions in the world. The soccer World Cup is a prized competition, but the Olympics has yet to gain notoriety.

Soccer Teams at The 2016 Olympic Games;


  1. Algeria
  2. Argentina
  3. Brazil
  4. Columbia
  5. Denmark
  6. Germany
  7. Honduras
  8. Iraq
  9. Japan
  10. Mexico 
  11. Fiji
  12. Nigeria
  13. Portugal
  14. South Africa
  15. South Korea
  16. Sweden
Neymar penalty seals gold for hosts | Rio 2016 Olympic Games
Brazil vs Germany 2016 Rio Olympics – Penalties


  1. Brazil
  2. United States
  3. Germany
  4. France
  5. Australia 
  6. Sweden
  7. Canada
  8. China
  9. New Zealand
  10. Columbia
  11. South Africa
  12. Zimbabwe 

The final was between Brazil and Germany and Germany won on penalties 5-4. 

Womens soccer at the Olympics
Women’s soccer at the Olympics

2021 Olympic Soccer Qualifying

For each major soccer finals, there are preliminaries to decide the nations that’ll compete in the competition.

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There are currently 32 competing teams for the World Cup, which will increase to 48 in 2026.

The number that competes at the Olympics is relatively small compared to 16. 

For nations to progress to the finals, they must compete in their local playoffs. They’re divided into areas; Africa, Asia, Europe, North/Central America & Caribean, and Oceana. 

Men’s Olympic Soccer Teams Competing in 2021

The team competing in the latest Olympics are;

  1. Argentina
  2. Australia
  3. Corte D’ivorie
  4. Egypt 
  5. France 
  6. Germany
  7. Japan 
  8. Korea Republic 
  9. New Zealand 
  10. Romania 
  11. Saudi Arabi 
  12. South Africa
  13. Spain 
  14. Mexico/United States
  15. Argentina/Columbia 
  16. Brazil/Uraguay

Women’s Olympic Soccer Teams Competing in 2021

There will be 12 women’s teams at the Olympic in 2020;

  1. Australia
  2. Brazil
  3. Canada
  4. Chile
  5. China
  6. Great Britain 
  7. Japan
  8. Netherlands
  9. New Zealand
  10. Sweden 
  11. USA
  12. Zambia 

Men’s Olympic Soccer Gold Medal Winners

The winners of the competition from 1900;

  • Great Britain: 3
  • Canada: 1
  • Belgium: 1
  • Uraguay: 2
  • Italy: 1
  • Sweden: 1
  • Hungary: 1
  • Soviet Union: 2
  • Yugoslavia: 1
  • Hungary: 3
  • Poland: 1
  • East Germany: 1
  • Czechoslavakia: 1
  • France: 1
  • Spain: 1
  • Nigeria: 1
  • Cameroon: 1
  • Argentina: 1
  • Mexico: 1
  • Brazil: 1

Who won the last Olympics in soccer? Brazil in 2016.

Who’s the most gold medal in men’s soccer? Britain and Hungary with 3 gold medals.

Women’s Olympic Soccer Gold Medal Winners

From the order of the winner from the start of the competition for women in 1996;

  • United States: 4
  • Norway: 1
  • Germany: 1

The United States women have won the most gold medals with 4.

Soccer at the Olympics US Womens lifting trophy and medals
Soccer at the Olympics US Women’s lifting trophy and medals

Olympic Soccer 2021: The Rules 

The rules for the 2020 competition state that the men are to have players under 23 years old except 3 players.

For the women’s teams, they’re not restricted by their age. The squad roster limit for the men’s and women’s teams is 18 players.

Group Stages of The Soccer Olympics

The teams are put into groups to decide which team will progress to the knock-out stages. The groups consist of four teams for men and three for women.

The top two teams will progress. Four group tables consist of four for the men and three for the women.

Each team will play once against their table members. Teams are awarded 3 points for a win and 1 point for a draw. 

Soccer Olympics 2021 Knockout Stages 

Once the teams have qualified, the winners of a group table will face the runners-up of another group table which is decided before the beginning of the competition.

The matches are played over 90 minutes, and if the teams are level they’ll go to extra time.

When the teams are level after 90 minutes;

  • they’ll have a 5-minute break
  • then face each other over two 15 minute halves
  • the teams will change ends after the first 15 minutes
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If the game is still level, the teams will face each other in a penalty kick shoot-out.

The 2021 Olympic Finals

The games will be held in Tokyo, Japan for the second time ever, with their first being in 1964. The competition will begin on the 23rd of July 2021 and ends on the 9th of August.

There are 206 nations competing in 33 types of sports. For more useful guides, see the articles below or visit our home page.

What is the age limit for Olympic soccer?

There is no limit to the age of the women’s teams. The men’s teams are only allowed to have 3 players on their roster over the age of 23. 

Can pro soccer players play in the Olympics?

Pro players can take part in the Olympics, but there would have to be an agreement with the clubs they represent because they’re contracted to them and could be in the middle of a playing season.

Soccer Analyst and Publisher at Soccer Blade | Soccer Blade | + posts

Joel is a seasoned soccer journalist and analyst with many years of experience in the field. Joel specializes in game analysis, player profiles, transfer news, and has a keen eye for the tactical nuances of the game. He played at various levels in the game and coached teams - he is happy to share his insight with you.

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