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Tuesday, September 19
Soccer Fan Guide

IN THE CROSSHAIRS puts Olympic soccer In the Crosshairs with our interactive fan guide feature. Check out each sport's fan guide for more In the Crosshairs looks at the Olympic sports.

Soccer in the Crosshairs

Men's gold medal match: Sept. 30
Venue: Olympic Stadium
Women's gold medal match: Sept. 28
Venue: Sydney Football Stadium

The outlook
The men's field consists of 16 teams. There are eight women's teams. While professionals are allowed in the men's tournament, rules restrict teams to players under 23, except for three exemptions. The women's tournament is open to players who are at least 16.

Nigeria, the 1996 champion, along with Brazil and Germany head the men's field. The United States, which won the first women's gold medal four years ago in Atlanta, is again the favorite. Australia, as the host nation, earned an automatic bid to both fields.

The finer points
Format: Sixteen men's teams will play round-robin competition in four groups of four. Two from each group progress to a quarterfinal knockout stage, followed by semifinals and a final. In women's competition, eight teams will engage in round-robin play in two groups of four with the top two in each group advancing to the semifinal elimination stage.

Olympics centennial: This is the 100th year for men's soccer to be an Olympic event.

Getting around: Matches are scheduled for venues in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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