Women's Soccer

Rio 2016 venue: Maracanã (Maracanã Zone); also in Salvador, Brasilia, Belo Horizonte, São Paulo and Manaus
Competition dates: Aug. 3-20
Medal events: 1 (women's team)
Olympic introduction: 1996 (Atlanta, Georgia)

The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team earned one of two Olympic berths that were up for grabs with a victory in the CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship semifinal on Feb. 19 in Houston. Having qualified, the U.S. women are among the favorites to win the gold medal at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, which would be its fourth consecutive Olympic title and fifth overall. The U.S. will look to defend its Olympic gold medal and become the first FIFA Women’s World Cup champion to win the following year’s Olympic title.

As witnessed during the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the ever-improving level of worldwide competition in the women’s game makes every succeeding world championship tougher than the last. Every team will be looking to knock the Americans off the top of the podium, but the U.S. team, with a slightly different look from its women’s World Cup championship roster, will be up for the task.

The U.S. team is riding a wave of momentum on and off the field after roaring to the World Cup title last summer, defeating Japan, 5-2, in front of a raucous pro-U.S. crowd of more than 53,000 fans in Vancouver. The television audience was the country’s largest ever for a soccer game.

The U.S. women won Olympic gold in 1996 – the first Games that featured women’s soccer – 2004, 2008 and 2012, and now head coach Jill Ellis will undertake the challenge of trying to lead the first team ever to win an Olympic gold medal after capturing the World Cup title. The U.S. won the silver medal in 2000, falling in overtime to Norway.

The 2016 Olympic tournament promises to be the most competitive ever. Just 12 teams (there are 24 nations in the World Cup) will compete for medals over a condensed 16-day competition, which means depth on a roster will be vital to any team’s success.

With a relatively short time between the 2015 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, the two rosters feature many of the same stalwarts. The core of the U.S. team has been hardened by experience in numerous world championships and other important matches in front of large crowds. That group includes the world’s best goalkeeper in Hope Solo and the starting back line that held five opponents scoreless in the World Cup in Julie Johnston, Ali Krieger and Becky Sauerbrunn.

Tobin Heath and Carli Lloyd will be contending for their third Olympic gold medal and are among some talented midfielders that include Allie Long and Megan Rapinoe. Women’s World Cup super-sub Kelley O’Hara can make an impact at outside back or outside midfield, and Whitney Engen adds depth to the center-backs. Team USA’s strike force is strong as always, led by Alex Morgan and bolstered by Christen Press, all of whom have shown they can score at a high rate on the international level. 

Athletes To Watch
Tobin Heath 
Heath had a remarkable 2015 Women’s World Cup, capped off by scoring the clinching goal in the Women’s World Cup final victory. Her speed, creativity and work rate from the flanks will be important for Team USA’s success in Rio. 

Carli Lloyd
Team USA’s attacking midfielder scored the winning goal in the 2008 Olympic gold-medal game, finding the net in overtime against Brazil, and then doubled her feat in 2012, scoring both goals in the final in a 2-1 victory over Japan. Her extraordinary 2015 season included earning the Golden Ball (as the best player of the Women’s World Cup), and U.S. Soccer Female Athlete of the Year and FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year honors. Her ability to shoot from distance is legendary, and her ability to put players behind her on the dribble as well as contribute to the team’s offensive rhythm by changing the point of attack through accurate long balls are all keys to Team USA’s success. 

Alex Morgan 
One of the fastest and most tenacious forwards in the world, Morgan has already scored numerous game-changing goals for the U.S. and promises to be one of the most popular athletes at the Rio Games. Her dramatic overtime goal in the semifinal of the 2012 Olympics was the latest goal ever scored in a FIFA competition and gave the U.S. a dramatic 4-3 victory in one of the best women’s soccer matches ever played.

Becky Sauerbrunn 
Team USA’s co-captain along with Lloyd, Sauerbrunn marshalled the Team USA’s Women’s World Cup defensive line, which came within 120 seconds of setting a record for most consecutive World Cup shutout minutes. Sauerbrunn’s performance in the Women’s World Cup solidified her standing as one of the world’s best defenders. Her calmness on the ball and leadership in the back are qualities admired by all of her teammates.

Hope Solo 
Solo will start in her third Olympic Games after backstopping the U.S. to gold medals in 2008 and 2012. She was named the best goalkeeper at the 2011 and 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cups, is the most capped goalkeeper in history and is the all-time leader in all goalkeeper categories in U.S. history. Hailed as the world’s best at her position, she will look to go out on top in what may be her last Olympic Games.


  • Although Brazil was eliminated from the 2015 Women’s World Cup in the Round of 16, the host nation will no doubt be one of the favorites playing on home soil in front of raucous fan support. Led by five-time World Player of the Year Marta Vieira da Silva, Brazil will be tough to beat. The U.S. and Brazil met in the Olympic gold-medal games in 2004 and 2008, both of which were won by the Americans, while Brazil knocked the U.S. out of the 2007 Women’s World Cup in the semifinal with a convincing 4-0 victory.
  • No women’s soccer team has ever won the World Cup and Olympics back to back. In 1995, Norway won the Women’s World Cup, but the U.S. won the 1996 Olympics. In 1999, the U.S. won the World Cup, but Norway defeated the Americans in the gold-medal game in 2000. In 2003, Germany won the World Cup, but the U.S. defeated the Germans in the semifinal of the 2004 Olympics and went on to win gold. In 2007, Germany won the World Cup again but then fell to the Brazilians in the semifinals in Beijing in 2008. In 2011, Japan won the Women’s World Cup, but the U.S. defeated the Japanese for gold in London. Can the Americans accomplish a feat never before seen?
  • The Rio Games will mark the first Olympic for U.S. head coach Jill Ellis at the helm. Ellis, who led the U.S. to the Women’s World Cup title in 2015, had the difficult task of trimming the roster to 18 for the Rio Games. Ellis has experience coaching at every level of the U.S. Women's National Team program and was an assistant on the 2008 and 2012 Olympic gold-medal-winning squads. While working for U.S. Soccer on the Youth National Team levels, she previously coached nearly every player in the current U.S. Women's National Team pool.
  • Carli Lloyd is one of the most acclaimed players in women’s soccer history. She scored the winning goal in the 2004 and 2008 Olympic gold-medal-games and recorded a historic hat trick in the 2015 Women’s World Cup final. Those amazing achievements will be hard to follow, but fans can count on Lloyd leaving her mark again in Rio.
  • Olympic soccer is unique in that matches are not limited to one venue, but played across the host country. The U.S. team could play matches in some of Brazil’s most famous stadiums in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Brasília, Salvador, and Manaus, most of which were built or renovated for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.