Olympic soccer draw: U.S. women to face Germany, Australia

The U.S. women’s national team will face Germany, Australia and either Zambia or Morocco in the group stage of this summer’s Olympic soccer tournament in France, where the Americans hope to return to the top of the podium for the first time in 12 years.

The U.S., winner of a record four Olympic titles and four World Cup crowns, hasn’t struck gold in the Summer Games since London in 2012.

The American men, returning to the Olympics for the first time since 2008, was grouped with France, New Zealand and the winner of a playoff between teams from the Asian and African confederations in Wednesday’s tournament draw, held in the Pulse building in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis.

The U.S. men have advanced out of group play just once in four previous trips to the Olympics since the tournament became an age-group competition in 1992.

“The bottom line is we’re just excited to have a path, to know who we’re playing for the most part, be able to start working on specific game plans and things like that,” said Twila Kilgore, interim coach of the women’s team.

“But also to know the logistical path. There’s so much that goes into an Olympics with such a short turnaround and congested games. And for our administration to be able to start mapping that out and take bigger steps towards where we’re headed is really important.

“Just happy the day came. The suspense was not fun.”

The 12-team women’s field is arguably the strongest in history, featuring every previous World Cup and Olympic champion save Norway and seven of the top 10 teams in the FIFA world rankings. The U.S., which will play in Group B, will open against either Zambia or Morocco in Nice on July 25, then face Germany, a two-time World Cup winner and the 2016 Olympic champion, and Australia, a quarterfinalist in last summer’s World Cup, in Marseille on July 28 and 31, respectively.

The field also includes Spain, the reigning World Cup champion, and Canada, the defending Olympic champion. Two more teams will join the field following the African qualifying tournament next month.

“All the groups are hard. It would be wrong to underestimate anybody,” Kilgore said.

The 16-team field for the men’s tournament, a U-23 competition, is weaker, featuring just two countries — Argentina and France — ranked in the top 11 and two others — New Zealand and the Dominican Republic — ranked outside the top 100. The U.S. will begin play against France, the host nation, on July 24.

“When you play against the host team, it might be like a little bit different experience,” said U.S. coach Marko Mitrovic, whose team will face France in a friendly on Monday. “I assume it’s going to be a sold-out stadium. But it is what it is.

“We just see them as all other teams in our group, as our opponents, and we’ll try to do our best.”

The Americans will continue against New Zealand on July 27 in Marseille before concluding the group stage July 30 in Saint-Etienne against the winner of a playoff between Guinea and a team from the Asian Football Confederation.

Two countries — Ukraine and the Dominican Republic — will be making their Olympic debuts, while Israel hasn’t played in the Games since 1976, when it was an amateur competition. Three other teams will qualify in the U-23 Asian Cup, which begins next month, with one more qualifier coming from an Asian-African confederation playoff.

Rosters for the men’s tournament are limited to players ages 23 and younger, with the exception of three older players per team.

Soccer is one of four sports, along with archery, handball and rugby sevens, that will start before the Games officially open July 26. The men’s competition will begin on July 24, with the women kicking off a day later. The men’s gold medal match is scheduled for Aug. 9 and the women’s final for Aug. 10, a day before the closing ceremonies.

The tournaments will be played in seven cities throughout France, from Paris in the north to Marseille on the Mediterrenean coast.

Paris Olympics soccer groups:


Group A

France, New Zealand, U.S., AFC-CAF playoff winner

Group B

Argentina, Morocco, Asian qualifier, Ukraine

Group C

Asian qualier, Spain, Egypt, Dominican Republic

Group D

Asian qualifier, Paraguay, Mali, Israel


Group A

France, Colombia, Canada, New Zealand

Group B

U.S., Zambia/Morocco winner, Germany, Australia

Group C

Spain, Japan, South Africa-Nigeria winner, Brazil

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