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Top soccer stories to watch in Rio

Olympic soccer
Gary Rohman/USA Today Sports

Top soccer stories to watch in Rio

Five stories to watch during the soccer tournaments at the 2016 Olympics.

Will the U.S. women win another gold medal?
The U.S. has dominated women’s soccer at the Olympics. In the five Games that it has been contested, the U.S. has come away with four gold medals and one silver.

In Rio, the U.S. is the favorite to win gold, which would be its fourth straight. Despite the team’s unmatched Olympic success, the Rio Olympic team has many new faces to the Games. 11 of the 18 players on the roster are making their Olympic debuts.

Familiar faces like Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Becky Sauerbrunn and Hope Solo are leading the team as the U.S. tries to become the first team to win the Women’s World Cup and Olympics in back-to-back summers. 

Can Brazil men win gold?
The Olympics are the only major men’s soccer tournament that Brazil has never won. With these Olympics on home soil, the pressure for gold is at an all-time high.

Brazil has the talent to top the podium, led by world superstar Neymar, who is appearing in his second Olympics.

At the 2012 London Olympics Neymar and Brazil came up just short in their pursuit of gold as they lost to Mexico in the Gold Medal Match. Anything less than gold will be viewed as a disappointment for the home fans. 

Will a young star emerge in the men’s tournament?
Since the Olympic men’s soccer tournament established an age restriction to 23 years old or younger, some of the world’s biggest future stars have appeared as youngsters at the Games, including Lionel Messi, Ronaldinho, Andrea Pirlo, Xavi and many others.

This summer, a new group of players are looking to make a name for themselves on the international stage. A few potential breakout stars are Argentina’s Angel Correa, Mexico’s Hirving Lozano and Brazil’s Gabriel Barbosa. All three are goal scorers and have appeared with their country’s senior national team. 

Ranking the top 20 players at Rio 2016 Olympics

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How will Megan Rapinoe perform?
Megan Rapinoe was named to the U.S. Olympic roster despite not having played a match for the U.S. in 2016 due to a torn ACL she suffered in December 2015. She was called back to the national team for training and evaluation in late June and showed enough to head coach Jill Ellis to earn a spot. Since Rapinoe has no game action in over nine months, there are many questions surrounding what she can contribute in Rio.  
When healthy Rapinoe has proven that she is one of the best players in the world. Although the U.S. has been able to continue its success with her sidelined, if Rapinoe is able to play at the level she is accustomed to, she would be a game changer for the team as a starter or substitute.  

Who will rise to the occasion with the absence of Japan’s women’s team? 
Japan’s women’s team has faced off against the U.S. in the final of every major tournament since 2011, winning the 2011 World Cup, taking silver at the 2012 London Olympics and finishing second at the 2015 World Cup. Japan was surprisingly unable to qualify for the 2016 Games, as it lost out to Australia and China in Asian qualifiers. 

The team’s absence opens the door for other countries to get their shot at a major tournament final. Medal contenders including Germany, France and 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Canada now have one less team to compete with as they try to dethrone the U.S. as Olympic champions.  


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