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Paris Olympics: How does the soccer tournament work?

Paris Olympics: How does the soccer tournament work?

  • PublishedMay 24, 2024

For the Paris Olympic games, the soccer tournament is condensed to less than three weeks — a much smaller and more intense timeframe than the World Cup.

WASHINGTON — No matter its name, football — or soccer, as it’s known in the United States — is the most popular sport in the world. 

Its popularity, driven by leagues, tournaments and die-hard fans, naturally makes it a big part of the Olympics every four years. 

For the Paris Olympic games, the soccer tournament is condensed to two-and-a-half weeks — a much smaller and more intense timeframe than the World Cup. 

Sixteen nations will compete in the Summer Games for the men’s tournament. In the women’s tournament, only 12 nations will be part of the competition.

How long is a soccer game?

Matches are made up of two 45-minute halves that can end in a draw after 90 minutes. 

Things change once the tournament enters the knockout stages, where games will go into extra time after 90 minutes. If necessary, the game will end in a penalty shootout to decide a winner.

Age restrictions

For the women’s tournament, there are no age restriction. 

However, for the men’s competition, most teams are made up of mostly 23-year-olds or younger. Each squad gets three exceptions for older players.

How many players are in each Olympic soccer team?

For both the men’s and women’s squad, there are 18 players. 

How does the soccer tournament at the Olympics work?

The men’s tournament divides all16 teams into four groups of four.

The top two teams from each group will advance to the quarterfinals, which begins the knockout stage of the competition. From there it is narrowed down to semi-finals, and then a final match for the gold medal on August 9.

A similar format is true with the women’s tournament. Twelve teams are split into three groups of four. Top two from each group and the two best third-placed teams advance to the quarterfinals.

Unlike American football, the clock at the Summer Games keeps running during any substitutions, injuries and other delays. 

A referee works at the official timekeeper and will ultimately decide how much time to add to make up for delays at the end of the half. The added time is commonly referred to as stoppage time or injury time. 

Fouls, yellow and red cards

If a player commits a foul, a referee will weigh whether to issue a warning or show a player a card. 

A yellow card indicates a player has officially been cautioned. 

If a referee issues a red card, a player must leave the field immediately and their team has to continue playing one player down for the remainder of the match.

Which countries have qualified for soccer at the Olympics?

So far, there are 12 nations that have secured a spot in the men’s soccer tournament. 

Argentina, Dominican Republic, Egypt, France, Israel, Mali, Morocco, New Zealand, Paraguay, Spain, Ukraine and Team USA.

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