1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. #9 Mia Hamm (USA)


Soccer in the Olympics

Olympic Soccer and Paralympic 7-a-side soccer have been popular sports of the Olympic and Paralympic Games for years. Its popularity extends worldwide, with many countries training year-round for their Olympic soccer debut. From the history and rules to the unforgettable moments on the field, get ready to dive into the exhilarating world of these two captivating soccer events.

Soccer, also known as football, is loved, played, and watched by millions worldwide. It brings people together, ignites passion, and showcases incredible skill and teamwork. Soccer is widely known for its popularity in the FIFA World Cup and, time after time has viewers from all over the globe cheering on the competing athletes.

Olympic soccer follows a traditional 11-a-side format, played on a full-sized field, and features both men’s and women’s competitions. Each soccer game is 90 minutes, with halftime at minute 45 and a chance to extend to overtime if the game ends in a tie at 90 minutes. A team wins if they score more goals than their opponent’s team. To score a goal, a soccer player from one team must kick the soccer ball into the goal past the opposing team’s goalie.

The U.S.A. men’s and women’s Olympic soccer teams have made an impression in the Olympic games with their athleticism, tenacity, and drive. However, the women’s national Olympic soccer team has dominated the Olympic medal count with an impressive collection of 4 gold medals (1996, 2004, 2008, 2012) and 1 silver medal (2000). The men’s national soccer team brought home the bronze medal in the 1992 Olympic Games.

1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, Soccer. No. 4 Carla Overbeck and No. 12 Carin Gabarra (USA, Gold)
Photograph by Michael Cooper / Allsport, Crawford Family U.S. Olympic Archives, U.S. Olympic Committee

Some memorable female Olympic athletes include Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly, Julie Foudy, and Joy Fawcett, all members of the 1996 U.S. women’s soccer team roster that won the gold-medal game against China in the first-ever Olympic Games women’s soccer tournament in Atlanta.

Fun Facts on Olympic Soccer

  • Soccer was the first team sport added to the Olympics at the 1900 Paris Games, but interestingly, wasn’t officially recognized as an Olympic sport until 1908.
  • Since 1992, men’s Olympic soccer teams have been limited to players under 23 years old, with three exceptions allowed per team.
  • The record for most goals scored by a single player in a single Olympic tournament belongs to Hungarian striker Ferenc Bene, who netted an incredible 12 goals in 1964!

7-a-Side Soccer in the Paralympics

While Olympic soccer captures the essence of national pride, 7-a-side soccer offers a different experience altogether. This format is specifically designed for players with disabilities, allowing them to showcase their skills and compete at the highest level.

This version of soccer, featuring teams of seven players on the field, was a Paralympic sport from 1984 to 2016. It was first included in the Paralympic Games in 1984 in New York. Still, it was removed from the program after the 2016 Rio Games due to concerns about insufficient development and participation, particularly among women.

While Paralympic 7-a-side soccer is no longer an official sport at the Olympic Games, it used to be a thrilling and unique competition, so here are some fun facts to remember it by:

Fun Facts on Paralympic Soccer

  • Paralympic soccer debuted at the 1984 New York and Stoke Mandeville Paralympics.
  • There are 7 players per team (including the goalkeeper) competing on a smaller field.
  • There are adaptive rules like no offside and the goalkeeper being allowed out of their penalty area.

Soccer Hall of Famers

Women's Olympic Soccer Team

1996 Women’s Soccer Team

Women’s soccer was added to the Olympic Games for the first time ever and while it was only an eight-team competition, it was a rousing success capped by the U.S. 2-1 victory over China in the gold-medal game.

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Kristine Lilly

Kristine Lilly played 354 games in a U.S. uniform and won two Olympic gold medals and one silver. Lilly scored goals in three consecutive games at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.

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Mia Hamm | Women's Olympic Soccer Team Atlanta 1996

Mia Hamm

After World Cup success, Hamm and the U.S. won gold medals in the 1996 and 2000 Olympics, and a silver in 2004. She is included in FIFA’s Top 100 Players in the World.

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Notable moments

The United States' women's teams enjoyed resounding success at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games, capturing the first-ever gold medals in women's soccer and softball, as well as winning gold in women's gymnastics team all-around and women's basketball.


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