Why do Olympic soccer teams need to be under the age of 23?

Are there any exceptions about age restriction?

Are there any differences between men and women?

2 Answers 2


Indeed Olympic football rules are different for men and women tournament and preliminary (qualifying) and final (Olympics) competitions:

Men’s Tournament

  1. All players participating in the preliminary and final competitions of the Tournament shall be born on or after 1 January 1989.
    However, a maximum of three male players who do not meet this age limit may also be included in the official list of players for the finals competition.

Women’s Tournament

  1. There are no age restrictions for the players participating in the women’s Tournament.

Please note that the men over 23 can only play at the Olympic finals, not the preliminary or qualifying rounds.

Source: Regulations of the Olympic Football Tournaments

A little bit of history:

For the 1984 Los Angeles Games, the IOC decided to admit professional players. FIFA still did not want the Olympics to rival the World Cup, so a compromise was struck that allowed teams from Africa, Asia, Oceania, and CONCACAF to field their strongest professional sides, while restricting UEFA and CONMEBOL teams to players who had not played in a World Cup.
Many countries fielded young teams, including France, who won the 1984 Olympic title.

Since 1992 male competitors must be under 23 years old, with three over-23 players allowed per squad. The new format allows teams from around the world to compete equally, and African countries have taken particular advantage of this, with Nigeria and Cameroon winning in 1996 and 2000 respectively.

The first women's tournament was at the 1996 Atlanta Games.



Another reason this rule exists is maybe for the media : If any player could participate, the football tournament would be taking a lot of mediatic place, to the detriment of the other sports.

  • Could you provide a reference for this? At the moment, it seems to be just speculation.
    – Philip Kendall
    May 12, 2015 at 15:14
  • As I said : "Maybe". It's a tentative to find more explanation than what is commonly known. However : in 2009, a proposal was made by FIFA for the Olympic Tournament to become a U-21 one. This was rejected by the IOC, and Blatter thought of 2 possibles way to change : making it a U21 tournament or abolishing age restriction and replacing it by banning players with world cup experience : news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/olympic_games/8396974.stm
    – LeReferee
    May 12, 2015 at 15:18

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