How It Works:

Modern soccer has its origins in the streets of medieval England.  Neighbouring towns would play each other in games marked by disorganization, violence and spontaneity.  It became such an unstoppable cultural phenomenon that governments found it uncontrollable. The change came when the game became popular in schools in the 1800s.  In this environment the game became more refined. Soccer was first contested at the Olympic Games in Paris 1900.  It has been on the Olympic program at every Games since then, aside from the 1932 Games in Los Angeles. Women’s soccer was added to the Olympic program for the 1996 Games in Atlanta.

The men’s tournament begins with the 16 teams divided into four groups of four while the women’s tournament begins with the 12 teams divided into three groups of four.  The groupings are done by seeding and draw, taking into account geography and competitiveness when possible.

In the group stage, each team will play the other teams in its group once, earning three points for a win, one point for a tie and no points for a loss.  In the men’s tournament, the top two teams in each group advance to the quarter-finals.  In the women’s tournament, the top two teams in each group along with the two best third place teams advance to the quarter-finals.  In the knockout stage, the winners of the quarter-finals advance to the semi-finals.  The winners of the semi-finals will play in the gold medal game and the losers will play for the bronze medal.  If matches in the knockout stage are tied after 90 minutes, two 15-minute extra time periods will be played and, if necessary, will be followed by penalty kicks to determine a winner.