The first members of 2024 U.S. Track and Field Olympic team will be decided Saturday as America's top distance runners vie for a shot at the Paris Games at the 2024 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.

Five (or six, we'll explain) Olympic spots are on the line as the racing unfolds from Orlando, Florida. 

The Trials will be available to watch live on Peacock and NBC streaming platforms. Tape-delayed coverage on NBC begins at noon ET. Both viewing options will feature full coverage of the marathon from start to finish, featuring a broadcast team of Leigh Diffey, Kara Goucher, Lewis Johnson and Deena Kastor.

Before you watch, let’s get you up to speed on the qualification nitty-gritty.

How we got here

In the olden days (pre-2020), the U.S. regularly sent three men and three women to the Olympic marathon, has dramatically cut back on the number of runners. 155 men and 157 women ran in the 2016 Olympic marathon, and only 106 men and 88 women ran in the 2020 version.

The cutback continues: The 2024 Olympic marathon will feature just 80 men and 80 women.

As a result, World Athletics has conceived the following system for 2024 qualification:

  • Each country can send a maximum of three women and three men to the Olympic marathon – but no country is guaranteed three spots.
  • Countries can “unlock” their Olympic spots if athletes achieve one of the following:
    • Run a fast enough qualifying time (two hours, eight minutes and 10 seconds for men, 2:26:50 for women).
    • Place in the top five at a World Athletics platinum-level race.
    • Reach a ranking high enough in the World Athletics ranking system.
  • World Athletics also keeps a “Quota Reallocation Time,” (QRT) meaning that any athlete who has run at or under that time since November 2022 can be named to an Olympic team (2:11:30 for men, 2:29:30 for women).

To date, 18 U.S. men have hit the QRT, as have 20 U.S. women. It's almost certain that the top two or three finishers in Orlando will have reached the QRT already. But if not, the Olympic team spots would fall to the next finisher who has met the standard.

So how does this affect Saturday’s U.S. Trials?

Women's marathon: simple

On the women’s side, this is pretty cut-and-dry. The U.S. has already unlocked all three possible spots, since 13 women have run a 2:26:50 or under since November 2022. The top three finishers in Orlando are safely on the Olympic team, assuming they’ve met the QRT.

Men's marathon: a bit mucky

For the men, only two spots have been unlocked — courtesy of Conner Mantz, who ran a 2:07:48 at the 2023 Chicago Marathon, and Clayton Young, who tallied a time of 2:08:00 in Chicago.

This means that, most likely, only the top two finishers in Orlando will punch their tickets to Paris (assuming they’ve met the QRT already). Remember, while Mantz and Young may have unlocked the spots, they are not guaranteed Olympic qualification. They have to earn it on Saturday.

Now, another wrinkle: The U.S. men can still unlock a third spot. Here are all the possible scenarios:

Scenario 1: A U.S. man (not named Conner Mantz or Clayton Young) runs at or under 2:08:10 in Orlando. This is considered a longshot, but it would unlock a third spot and send the third-place finisher in the Trials to Paris. Cue the national anthem.

Scenario 2: No U.S. man, other than Mantz or Young, runs at or under a 2:08:10 in Orlando. This is the more likely option. In this case, the third spot wouldn’t be unlocked on Saturday. But that elusive third Paris-bound seat can still get unlocked in one of two ways:

  1. A U.S. male athlete can finish in the top-five in any of the remaining platinum-level marathons (Tokyo, Seoul, Boston) within the qualification window.
  2. A U.S. male athlete can achieve high enough ranking on the World Athletics list as of May 5.

If either of those conditions are met, three U.S. men will run in the 2024 Olympic marathon. If not, it’ll be just two.

Craving more? Here’s USA Track & Field’s 24-page explainer.