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The first official men's Olympic soccer tournament dates back to the 1908 London Games, where Great Britain defeated Denmark to claim the first soccer gold medal. Since that time soccer has been part of every Olympic Games Program, with the exception of the 1932 Los Angeles Games. The 1940 and 1944 Olympic Games were cancelled completely due to the political tensions surrounding World War II.

The United States has competed in the men's Olympic finals 12 times, including five straight tournaments from 1984 to 2000. In addition, the U.S. qualified for but did not compete in the 1980 Moscow Games following a boycott by the U.S. Olympic Committee. The U.S. missed out on qualifying for the 2004 Athens Olympics, winning their group but then losing a one-game qualifying match against Mexico at Estadio Azteca in Mexico after the Mexicans had finished in second in their group.

For the U.S. women, Olympic gold show twice for the team, with first place medals in 1996 in Atlanta and in 2004 in Athens.

Up until and including the 1988 Seoul Games, the Olympic soccer tournament was an unrestricted event and the the U.S. Olympic Soccer Team was essentially the U.S. National Team. However the tournament structure has changed since that times and the restrictions on age and experience of players involved in Olympic competition has been under review by FIFA, who makes all tournament recommendations to the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The 1992 Barcelona Games proved to be the turning point in the Olympic soccer tournament, when the men's tournament was competed as an under-23 event for the first time. Host Spain captured the title at Barcelona's famous Nou Camp Stadium in front of 95,000 jubilant fans. Spain's progress in the tournament aided struggling attendances in 1992, which were far lower than expected. There is little doubt that the poor attendance in Spain played a role in the changes made for the 1996 Atlanta Games.

Not only did Atlanta '96 signify the first time women's soccer was included in the Olympic Program, but the men's tournament adapted from its under-23 format in 1992 to include three "wild card" players. "Wild card" players were those players who either over 23 years of age or had previously played in an Olympic Games soccer tournament. Claudio Reyna (who was eligible in 1996, but had competed for the U.S. in 1992), Kasey Keller and Alexi Lalas were the USA's overage players in 1996.

In 2000, veteran defenders Jeff Agoos and Frankie Hejduk, as well as goalkeeper Brad Friedel, were selected as the USA's overage players, helping the team on an unprecedented tournament run which saw the U.S. advance to the medal round before falling in the semifinals to a strong Spanish team.

The U.S. Women's National Team claimed the inaugural gold medal at the Atlanta Games with a 2-1 victory over China before76,481 fans on August 1, 1996 in Athens, Georgia. The attendance mark, which at the time was the largest crowd to ever watch a women's athletic event, set the stage for the incredibly successful FIFA Women's World Cup staged in the U.S. in 1999. The gold medal victory culminated an impressive five-game undefeated run through the tournament in which the U.S. Women played in front of packed crowds.

As they did in 1996, the U.S. Women has a strong run to the medal stand in 2000, winning the "Group of Death" that included China, Nigeria and Norway. In the Gold Medal match, a spunky Norwegian team refused to yield and eventually took home the gold with a thrilling 3-2 overtime triumph.

The 2004 Athens Games were a fitting end for a number of U.S. veterans, including Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy and Joy Fawcett, who went out of the sport as they came into it: as champions. The never-say-die team who both their semifinal and final matches in overtime, courtesy of a Heather O'Reilly strike against Germany and an Abby Wambach goal against Brazil to claim the gold.

Men's Olympic Soccer Tournament
  United Kingdom  Denmark  Netherlands  London, Great Britain
 United Kingdom  Denmark  Netherlands  Stockholm, Sweden
 Belgium  Spain  Netherlands  Antwerp, Belgium
 Uruguay  Switzerland  Sweden  Paris, France
 Uruguay  Argentina  Italy  Amsterdam, Holland
No Tournament  Los Angeles, USA
 Italy  Austria  Norway  Berlin, Germany
 Sweden  Yugoslavia  Denmark  London, Great Britain
 Hungary  Yugoslavia  Sweden  Helsinki, Finland
 Soviet Union  Yugoslavia  Bulgaria  Melbourne, Australia
 Yugoslavia  Denmark  Netherlands  Rome, Italy
 Hungary  Czechoslovakia  East Germany  Tokyo, Japan
 Hungary  Bulgaria  Japan  Mexico City, Mexico
 Poland  Hungary  E. Germany / Soviet Union  Munich, W. Germany
 East Germany  Poland  Soviet Union  Montreal, Canada
 Czechoslovakia  East Germany  Soviet Union  Moscow, Soviet Union
 France  Brazil  Yugoslavia  Los Angeles, USA
 Soviet Union  Brazil  West Germany  Seoul, Korea
 Spain  Poland  Ghana  Barcelona, Spain
 Nigeria  Argentina  Brazil  Atlanta, United States
 Cameroon  Spain  Chile  Sydney, Australia
 Argentina  Paraguay  Italy  Athens, Greece
Women's Olympic Soccer Tournament
 United States  China  Norway  Atlanta, United States
 Norway  United States  Germany  Sydney, Australia
 United States  Brazil  Germany  Athens, Greece

Olympic Soccer History

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