Is Soccer in the Olympics?

The Olympic Games first came to being in ancient Greece and was something of a mythical event. Supposedly, Hercules built an Olympic Stadium to honor his father- the king of the gods, Zeus. From then on, people from the various Greek city-states and kingdoms competed in these games in the ultimate honor to the gods. 

The spirit of the Olympics is to bring harmony and unity to the world through sport. The modern Olympics started in 1896 and were held in Athens, a whopping 241 athletes from 14 nations competed in the games and since then the number has astronomically risen as more and more nations began competing in the games. The latest Olympic Games that were held in 2016 had more than 11 thousand athletes from over 200 nations.

There are many popular sports in the Olympics such as golf, badminton, tennis, boxing and many more. Of course, you may be wondering if soccer, the most popular sport in the world, is an Olympic event and you’ll be pleasantly surprised to know that it is. Go through our article Is Soccer in the Olympics?

Is Soccer in the Olympics?

How did Soccer become a sport? - Is Soccer in the Olympics?

Soccer’s origin as a sport is quite global, with accounts going all the way back to 300BC. Many ancient civilizations, from the Chinese to the Aztec had various ball games that were played with the feet. These accounts vary greatly but carry a common denominator – the fact that the feet were predominantly used to play the game. 

The rules that we associate with modern soccer came about in England during the 1800s. The rules of the game that we know today were adopted by the Football Association in 1863.

When was Soccer adopted into the Olympics? - Is Soccer in the Olympics?

Soccer would first be featured in the 1900 Olympics. A few teams would drop out, leaving Denmark, Smyrna, Athens and Thessaloniki. The final standings had Denmark winning against Athens. Strangely enough, it wouldn’t be officially adopted as an Olympic event until 1908. It was because in the previous Olympics, the teams, rather than being a national one were from a club or were just temporary.

How is Soccer played in the Olympics?

In the Olympics, soccer is played as a tournament with teams having to join after playing in a qualifying tournament in their region. For instance, a European nation may join after finishing in the top three of the UEFA tournament. 

Unlike international football, there are some further rules that make Olympic soccer a little different from the game we know. 

There is an age limit for the players of an Olympic soccer team. Only athletes who are under 23 can play in an Olympic soccer team. This ensures that the competition is fair. If not, the Olympic competition would see nations only sending their best players and see the sport dominated by European and South American countries, where the sport is more common. 

In the eyes of FIFA, Olympic soccer is not an official event and professional players are not obligated to enter it. Also if they did, it would be like having a world cup every 2 years and thereby compete for popularity with the world cup, which is held by FIFA- also in 4 year intervals. So, they were a major proponent of establishing an age limit in Olympic soccer. 

Another reason, also cited by FIFA is that professional soccer players have a busy schedule and tend to have a 9 to10 month long season playing for clubs and in their national teams. So, in order to give the players ample time to rest and to keep the Olympic competition fair, the Olympics have adopted these rules.

Any difference between Men’s and Women’s Olympic soccer?

There is one major difference, and that is the age limit. While in men’s Olympic soccer, there is an age limit of 23, there is no age limit for women’s Olympic soccer events. 

Once more, popularity is the answer.

Men’s soccer is much more popular than women’s soccer and so, FIFA doesn’t see the need for an age limit for fair play. This makes the women’s soccer event more competitive and entertaining to watch since the best women soccer players from around the world take part in the event.

What does Olympic Soccer mean for soccer players?

The Olympics serve as a stage where young soccer players can show off their skill. Young and lesser nations can come to this celebration of sports and surprise the world with the talent of their players. 

This happened for Cameroon at the 2000 Sydney games. Each one of the players in the winning squad went on to find fame all over the world as soccer players. Samuel E’to has to be mentioned for this, since he went on to have a legendary career after the 2000 Sydney games. He is regarded as one of Africa’s best soccer players and has won the African Player of the Year award a total of 4 times, a feat only achieved by Didier Drogba, an Ivorian player.

What does the Olympics mean for Women’s soccer?

It is not an unknown fact that most women’s sports are underrated and have lower ratings when compared with men’s sports. The games may be the same, the competition may be the same, but the audience just aren’t as interested as they should be. 

The Olympics is quite unique in this matter. The sheer number of people that tune in to watch the games are staggering. When the first women’s world cup was held in 1991, over 76 thousand people tuned in to watch the US-China finals. This was a record number that would only increase with subsequent world cups.  With no age restrictions, the women’s soccer event is much more competitive and entertaining as it holds the same value as a world cup. 

Since its adoption in 1993 and inception in 1996, the USA Women’s soccer team has dominated the event, with 4 gold medal wins. 

The entirety of women’s sports, soccer especially inspires young girls all around the globe to compete and show the world their talent.


Soccer is a game that has everything, from edge-of-your-seat action to nail-biting suspense. The game encompasses the very spirit of the Olympics in its ancient origins and is a truly Olympic sport.

You can also look for: Difference Between Soccer and Football Cleats

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