The Americans failed to qualify for the men’s 2016 Olympics Soccer Tournament in Rio, but the field of successful qualifiers holds plenty of competitive candidates to show some excitement about – including our neighbor to the south, Mexico.
Coming off its victory at the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Championship, Mexico looks strong as it gears up to attempt to defend its title from the 2012 rendition of the tournament. The Mexican Men’s Team trumped bronze-medalist South Korea and runner-up Brazil for the gold medal victory in London in the last Olympics.
Now in Rio, Mexico could very well face the Brazilians in a rematch for the title, as Brazil looks to become the first club to win the Olympics in its home country since Spain in Barcelona in 1992. Brazil earned third prize in the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics as well, so a tournament victory in Rio would complete a 3-2-1 run for the South Americans of Brazil.
Other South American candidates look strong as well. Argentina qualified for Rio with its victory of the South American U-20 Championship that took place in Uruguay back in February 2015. Closing out the South American group, Columbia knocked down the U.S. in the two-legged playoff of March 2016, to make it to Rio.
On the other side of the Atlantic, we find a continent looking equally as strong as - or likely even stronger than South America. Europe’s artillery features the likes of Denmark, Germany, Portugal, and Sweden…four major powerhouses to keep an eye on as tournament play unfolds. Sweden recently won the UEFA tournament, and is eyeing up an Olympic medal to close out a rare double-crown opportunity.
Africa and Asia features some notable names, as well. Nigeria and Algeria both earned tickets to the Rio tournament through semifinal wins at the CAF U-23 Senegal Championship, while South Africa snuck in the mix as victors of the third place play-off.
Qatar made a similar move to South Africa, sneaking in on a third place play-off win berth, which joined them with Japan and 2012 bronze-medalist Korean Republic as qualifiers from Asia.
Closing out the list of 16 qualifying teams are groups from Honduras and Fiji. All 16 clubs will be in action starting Aug. 3 when the first whistle blows for the long-anticipated 2016 Rio Olympic Soccer Tournament.