Every four years, the Olympics catch the eye of the entire nation. Wearing red, white, and blue, we come together to cheer for athletes representing the USA. Asphalt Green knows the ins and outs of the summer Olympic sports—we offer programs for them year-round. Need a refresher? Our spectator guides will tell you everything you need to know (and make you sound really smart at watch parties).


Origin of the sport: Soccer—also called football—is known as the world’s most popular sport. According to FIFA, 265 million people play around the world. Though variations of the sport date back 2,000 years, England is credited with forming the rules we know today in 1863. Men’s soccer joined the Olympic Games in 1908, but the women’s program wasn’t introduced until 1996. 


General rules:

  • Two teams play with 11 people each on the field, also called a pitch. One match consists of two 45-minute halves. The game is simple: Put the ball in the opposing team’s net. The team with the most goals at the end of regulation wins.
  • A match begins in the center of the field. Once the game begins, it does not stop unless the ball goes out of bounds or a penalty is called.
  • Players may use their feet, chest, head, or shoulders to move the ball forward. Only the goalkeeper may use his or her hands within the 18-yard box that surrounds the goal.
  • When the ball goes out of bounds, possession goes to the team that did not play it out. 
  • A penalty is called when a play is made on an athlete instead of the ball—tripping, pushing, tackle from behind, etc.—and a free kick is awarded at the spot of the foul. Fouls inside the 18-yard box result in a penalty kick, which is an open shot at the goal 12 yards away from the goalie.


Olympic competition:

  • Men: There are 16 countries in the tournament, divided into four groups. The two teams with the best record in each group advance to the quarterfinals. Here, the knockout stage begins—teams that win continue in the tournament, and those that lose are out. Winners advance to the semifinals, and then the finals, where an Olympic champion is crowned.
  • Women: There are 12 counties in the tournament, divided into three groups. The two teams with the best record in each group and the two best third-place countries advance. From here, the tournament follows the same format as the men.
  • In the knockout phase, if the game ends in a tie, 30 minutes is added to the clock. If the game is still tied after the extra time, a winner is determined by penalty shootout.


US athletes to watch for:

  • The men did not qualify a team to the Rio Olympics, but the women are vying to defend their gold-medal performance in London 2012.
  • Carli Lloyd is the leader of Team USA and one of the most dominant players in the world. She controls the middle of the field and is known for making big plays when it counts. In the 2015 Women’s World Cup final against Japan, she scored a hat trick (three goals) just 16 minutes into the game, leading the team to a 5-2 victory.
  • Lloyd’s talent is boosted by her teammates. Watch out for forward and speedster Alex Morgan, who has a knack for finding the back of the net.
  • While Morgan is the star up front, Meghan Klingenberg makes her Olympic debut as a defender. After being named an alternate for the 2012 Olympics, she shined the past four years, playing in every game at the 2015 World Cup. Though a smaller player, she is one of the most aggressive on the field and exciting to watch. Nothing gets past her.


When to tune in: Group play is underway, with the quarterfinals kicking off Friday, August 12, the semifinals Tuesday, August 16, and the finals Friday, August 19.  


More Olympics Coverage: 

Spectators Guide: Swimming

Olympic Trials Through the Eyes of Two Asphalt Green Swimmers

Jason Lezak: Journey to Olympic Gold