Is Soccer in the Olympics?

Is Soccer in the Olympics?

If you are one of the many fans who got introduced to soccer due to the recently concluded World Cup, then you are probably thirsty for more!

Since the next World Cup is in 2026 (in the U.S. by the way 😃), where would you get your fix of international soccer? Maybe in the 2024 Olympics? But, is soccer even in the Olympics?

Yes! Soccer is a summer Olympic sport. It is referred to as the ‘Olympic Football Tournament’. The men’s games have been around since 1900 and women’s Olympic competition started in 1996.

It is an exciting showcase but for soccer fans looking to watch their favorite European big-named players like Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar Jr., etc., they could be thoroughly disappointed. We’ll explain later in this article.

When was Soccer Included in the Olympics?

Although international competition has been around for many years prior, soccer was featured in the Olympics in 1900 (men’s) and 1996 (women’s).

Since then, there were only a couple of Olympic events where soccer was not included in the official slate. One was in the first Olympics held in Athens, Greece. The main reason is that it was not that popular then.

In 1900 in Paris, France, soccer made its debut in the Olympics as an exhibition sport, and it was the first team sport ever played.

Soccer’s popularity suddenly exploded outside of England. However, it was still not internationally organized back then. FIFA was established eight years later.

Soccer has always been included in the Olympics since.

However, in the Los Angeles Olympics in 1932, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and FIFA had a disagreement regarding amateurism in the Olympics.

International Olympic Football (Soccer)

Although soccer was in the Olympics, it was considered just an exhibition event.

us-womens-national-soccer-teamIn 1908, because of the establishment of FIFA, soccer became increasingly popular that it became an official medal sport in the Olympics. During that Olympic games, the host nation, England, won the gold medal, Denmark received silver, and the Netherlands bronze.

Women’s soccer debuted in the Olympics much later in 1996 in the Atlanta Olympics. Back then, only eight women’s teams participated and the host team (USA) won the gold medal. In the following Olympics, which was held in Sydney, Australia, Norway’s women’s soccer team came home with the gold.

In 2004, at the Athens Olympics, the number of teams expanded to 10 teams, and in the succeeding Beijing Olympics, the number rose again to 12. The USA women’s soccer team won the gold in both those Olympic games.

Friction Between FIFA and International Olympic Committee

The reason why soccer was not included in the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics was due to a dispute between the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and FIFA regarding allowing professional players to compete.

The “no professionals” policy of the Olympics loosened up a bit in 1984. The rules were somewhat relaxed, and the organization finally allowed professional players to compete.

Things changed in 1992 at the Barcelona Olympics. The IOC’s policy allowed professional football players to play.

In the new policy, players are required to be under 23 years old. Even though each team is allowed a maximum of three players that went over the age limit, this still somewhat balances the playing field by not having all professional players in a single team.

This also created a difference between the World Cup and the Olympics matches which FIFA was in favor of.

Surprisingly to many, FIFA does not consider the Olympics an official soccer tournament. For this reason, many of the top professional players do not compete and teams aren’t required to send their best players.

Regarding women’s soccer, there are no rules against fielding professional players in the Olympics.

How to Qualify for the Olympics

In soccer, the process for qualifying for the Olympic Games is slightly different than other sports.

The teams that qualify for the Olympic Games are determined by the six confederations that are affiliated with FIFA:

  • Asian Football Confederation (AFC) – Asia
  • Confederation of African Football (CAF) – Africa
  • Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) – North and Central America and Caribbean
  • South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) – South America,
  • Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) – Oceania
  • United of European Football Associations (UEFA) – Europe

Each confederation holds qualifying tournaments to determine which teams will represent the confederation at the Olympic Games.


Paris, France will host the next summer Olympic Games from July 26, 2024 to August 11, 2024. You can watch the exciting international competition fighting to place for gold, silver and bronze medals.

What makes the Olympics so unique is that it will feature rising young stars (hopefully) including Xavi Simons, Zeno Debast, Ansu Fati, Ynus Musah and more. These talented players get an opportunity to step away from the shadows of their seasoned country-mates.

We can’t wait to see all the countries back in action!

Beau Bridges - Soccer Novo Hey 👋 I’m Beau. A proud Dad, former coach and soccer enthusiast. I continue to love the game of soccer today the same way I did when I was 7. I created to share what I know about the game as well as provide a platform so other parents can learn more about youth soccer in the U.S.

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