What's more prestigious for soccer: The World Cup or Olympics?

I got into thinking about this after being reminded that no matter what the players on Team USA say, an Olympic medal is far less preferable than the NBA championships for basketball. Guys often skip out on the Olympics after winning one, many athletes could probably play for Team USA and be assured a medal but choose to play for their national teams that have little to no chance of winning. Guys play injured and force themselves into one more year for a chance to win the championships, but Olympic basketball has a pretty quick attrition rate and many guys who can play don’t often try out or decline.

But soccer’s different. Both come only once every 4 years, and both are international competitions. National teams are many, and unless you’re playing in the elite leagues in Europe, a “world champion” national team isn’t much better than a middle squad in the Euro league or something. But unlike basketball, it seems national teams take a huge amount of pride in winning at the Olympics, and they frequently send their best guys.

Also, as an American, we don’t really get the soccer fervor so I’m not biased by a local team taking up the soccer news. To me, the World Cup and Olympics are equally big and take up the sports conversation for weeks. What’s it like in countries with existing great soccer clubs?

The World Cup is far more prestigious, as is the Eurocup, and probably any number of European club prizes and possibly even national titles. It’s really all the way down in terms of popularity. The reason for this, of course, is that the olympic football teams that are fielded have to consist of players under the age of 23 (except for 3 (I think) dispensation players) which means that the teams that are actually playing are far weaker than any of the major club teams or national sides. Also, there’s only 10 or 12 teams that qualify, from all over the world, which works against bringing in the strongest set of national teams, as there have to be teams from outside Europe and South America, too. It’s a shame, really.

World Cup as that is the best players available. There is a limit to how many players above a certain age can be fielded on Olympics

For men, there’s no question the World Cup is more prestigious.

For women, the World Cup and the Olympics are about equal.

I didn’t know about the age limit. That seems to throw a kink into things. Some in the NBA are trying to push for that 23 and under thing too, so that’s where it came from

What about the women’s team? Any age limit on them? I just looked up Hope Solo’s age and she’s 31…

There’s no age limit for the women.

As **flodnak **says, it’s different for women’s soccer. There’s no age limit in Olympic women’s soccer, and it is a major tournament. As far as men’s soccer goes, I understand that the Olympic tournament is taken quite seriously in South America and Africa, and of course South America includes some of the major soccer nations. But with its (mostly) under-23 age limit, it can never really rival the World Cup, the European Championship, or the Copa America in prestige. And I think the soccer authorities, who preside over those tournaments, like it that way. They don’t want the Olympics to be a serious rival tournament, hence the age limit.

I agree, and for pretty much the same reasons others are giving.

The women’s Olympic tournament has the same players as the World Cup tournament; the only real difference is, the WC can have separate teams for England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, while the Olympics cannot, although I am not sure if there are any non-English players on the 2012 British team.

The men’s tournament, IIRC, is limited to three professionals 23 years old or older per team. (I don’t think the age limit applies to amateur players.)

Ryan Giggs.