The Olympic men’s soccer tournament occupies a unique and sometimes awkward space in the sport's busy cycle. Unlike the women’s Olympic tournament, which is considered a major competition on par with the FIFA Women’s World Cup, the men’s competition generally takes a back seat not only to the World Cup, but also to continental competitions like the European Championships and CONMEBOL Copa America. However, the Olympic men’s tournament offers something no other competition can: the chance for an entire generation of promising young players to lace up beside established national team veterans to chase Olympic gold.
Since 1992, the Olympic men’s tournament has been mostly restricted to players aged 23 and younger (though that maximum has been raised to 24 for the Tokyo Olympics due to the one-year postponement of the Games). Each nation can, however, name as many as three senior players regardless of age to the Olympic roster, which allows for the participation of more experienced and globally recognizable names among the promising youngsters. In the past, those players have included superstars Andrea Pirlo (ITA, 2004), Ronaldinho (BRA, 2008), Luis Suarez (URU, 2012), Ryan Giggs (GBR, 2012) and, perhaps most notably, Neymar for hosts and eventual gold medalists Brazil in 2016.
But the true beauty of the men’s Olympic tournament is the international stage it provides to young future stars. At the Rio 2016 Olympics alone, current world-class players Bruno Fernandes (POR), Son Heung-Min (KOR), Hirving Lozano (MEX), Serge Gnabry (GER) and Gabriel Jesus (BRA) announced their presence to a global audience as college-aged prospects.
The Tokyo Olympics projects to be no different with several of the world’s most prolific soccer nations participating, bringing with them a mixture of phenoms and accomplished veterans. NBC Olympics has previewed each of the 16 sides competing in all four groups of Tokyo tournament, including one young player and one veteran to watch from each squad.
Select a group below:
How to watch
The Tokyo Olympics men's soccer tournament begins on July 22 with the first round of group stage action. All matches of the tournament are scheduled for early morning kickoffs in the U.S. and many will take place concurrently with other matches. For that reason, some matches will air live on the networks of NBC Universal while others are shown on a short delay. However, every match of the tournament can be streamed LIVE here on NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports App.
The full tournament schedule with streaming links is below:
|July 22, 3:30 a.m.||Group C - Egypt vs. Spain||LINK|
|July 22, 4:00 a.m.||Group A - Mexico vs. France||LINK|
|July 22, 4:00 a.m.||Group B - New Zealand vs. South Korea||LINK|
|July 22, 4:30 a.m.||Group D - Cote d'Ivoire vs. Saudi Arabia||LINK|
|July 22, 6:30 a.m.||Group C - Argentina vs. Australia||LINK|
|July 22, 7:00 a.m.||Group A - Japan vs. South Africa||LINK|
|July 22, 7:00 a.m.||Group B - Honduras vs. Romania||LINK|
|July 22, 7:30 a.m.||Group D - Brazil vs. Germany||LINK|
|July 25, 3:30 a.m.||Group C - Egypt vs. Argentina||LINK|
|July 25, 4:00 a.m.||Group A - France vs. South Africa||LINK|
|July 25, 4:00 a.m.||Group B - New Zealand vs. Honduras||LINK|
|July 25, 4:30 a.m.||Group D - Brazil vs. Cote d'Ivoire||LINK|
|July 25, 6:30 a.m.||Group C - Australia vs. Spain||LINK|
|July 25, 7:00 a.m.||Group A - Japan vs. Mexico||LINK|
|July 25, 7:00 a.m.||Group B - Romania vs. South Korea||LINK|
|July 25, 7:30 a.m.||Group D - Saudi Arabia vs. Germany||LINK|
|July 28, 4:00 a.m.||Group D - Saudi Arabia vs. Brazil||LINK|
|July 28, 4:00 a.m.||Group D - Germany vs. Cote d'Ivoire||LINK|
|July 28, 4:30 a.m.||Group B - Romania vs. New Zealand||LINK|
|July 28, 4:30 a.m.||Group B - South Korea vs. Honduras||LINK|
|July 28, 7:00 a.m.||Group C - Australia vs. Egypt||LINK|
|July 28, 7:00 a.m.||Group C - Spain vs. Argentina||LINK|
|July 28, 7:30 a.m.||Group A - France vs. Japan||LINK|
|July 28, 7:30 a.m.||Group A - South Africa vs. Mexico||LINK|
|July 31, 4:00 a.m.||Quarterfinal 1||LINK|
|July 31, 5:00 a.m.||Quarterfinal 2||LINK|
|July 31, 6:00 a.m.||Quarterfinal 3||LINK|
|July 31, 7:00 a.m.||Quarterfinal 4||LINK|
|August 3, 4:00 p.m.||Semifinal 1||LINK|
|August 3, 7:00 p.m.||Semifinal 2||LINK|
|August 6, 7:00 a.m.||Bronze Medal Match||LINK|
|August 7, 7:30 a.m.||Gold Medal Match||LINK|