By Ryan Bailey
Charlotte FC midfielder Riley McGree will be among the soccer stars competing for Gold in Tokyo
CHARLOTTE—After a year-long delay, the Summer Olympic Games are upon us. Over 11,000 of the world’s greatest athletes will convene in Tokyo through July and August to compete in 33 sports—including the beautiful game.
Charlotte FC fans will have a vested interest in the men’s soccer tournament, where midfielder Riley McGree will be representing his native Australia.
Here’s everything you need to know about watching soccer at the 2020 Olympic Games…
When does soccer begin at the 2020 Olympics?
Soccer at the Olympics will typically get started before the Opening Ceremony, and this year is no exception. The women’s tournament kicks off on July 21—two days ahead of the Opening Ceremony—while the men begin on July 22.
The men’s final will be staged on August 6, two days before the Olympic Closing Ceremony.
What is the format of the tournament?
There are 16 teams in the men’s tournament, who qualified from each of FIFA’s six continental federations.
The Olympic tournament is structured similarly to other international tournaments: a group stage precedes a single-elimination knockout bracket. The 16 teams are split into four groups, with the top two finishers in each group progressing to the quarterfinal stage. From there, it’s a single-elimination bracket that concludes with the final.
There are no age restrictions for players in the women’s tournament, but for men, players must be 23 or under, with the exception of three over-age players. However, with the delay of the Games, FIFA restricted the age to players born on or after January 1, 1997. Hence, it is effectively an U24 tournament.
FIFA places the age limit as a means of differentiating the competition from the World Cup.
Are the United States Men’s and Women’s teams competing?
The United States Women’s National Team qualified for the Olympics in February 2020. However, the men’s team were eliminated in qualifying in March 2021. Mexico and Honduras are representing the CONCACAF region in the men’s competition.
Will any Charlotte FC players be at the tournament?
Yes! Charlotte FC midfielder Riley McGree will be representing Australia.
“It’s a huge honor to be representing my country at the Olympics, it’s really a dream come true,” said McGree before heading to Olympic training camp with the Socceroos.
McGree’s Australia are in Group C, alongside Spain, Argentina and Egypt. The Socceroos will be playing their group matches at the following times:
Argentina vs. Australia: Thursday July 22 @ 6.30am ET
Australia vs. Spain: Sunday July 26 @ 6.30am ET
Australia vs. Egypt: Wednesday July 28 @ 7am ET
What is the time difference in Japan?
Japan has one standard time zone, which is 13 hours ahead of Eastern Time. Therefore, a match kicking off at 7.30 p.m. at the Games will be live on the east coast at 6.30 a.m. the same day.
Where are the matches being played?
A total of seven venues across six cities will be used for the soccer tournament—and most matches will take place outside of Tokyo proper.
Australia’s opening match against Argentina will take place at Sapporo Dome in Sapporo, which is around 550 miles from Tokyo. The Socceroos third group game will be held at the Miyagi Stadium in Rifu, the home of Sony Sendai FC.
The Men’s Final will be held at the 70,000-capacity International Stadium Yokohama. The stadium hosted four matches at the 2002 World Cup and has been used in several editions of the FIFA Club World Cup.
How can I watch the matches?
The Olympics are broadcast on NBC in the United States. Coverage can be found on NBC, USA, NBCSN, CNBC, Olympic Channel, Golf Channel, NBCOlympics.com, and NBC’s streaming platform, Peacock.
Australia’s opening match against Argentina is scheduled for 6.30am ET on Thursday July 22 on the Olympic Channel. The second match, against Spain, is slated for 6.30 a.m. ET on Sunday, July 25 on NBCSN.