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FIFA says soccer clubs don’t have to release players for Rio Olympics

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Soccer clubs are under no obligation to allow their players to play in the Rio Olympic men’s tournament, FIFA said Friday.

“The event is not part of the international match calendar,” FIFA said in a press release. “However, FIFA is asking for support from the clubs to allow players who are called up by their national teams to be given the chance to be part of the Olympic experience.”

The move could impact Brazil’s biggest sports star, Barcelona striker Neymar, who has said he’s made his intentions to play in the Olympic soccer tournament known to his club.

In 2012, FIFA ordered club teams to allow under-23 players to compete in the Olympics. In 2008, the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled Barcelona did not have to release Lionel Messi to compete in the Olympics, though Messi did end up winning gold with Argentina anyway.

In May, Brazil national team coach Dunga, who is also the under-23 Olympic team coach after the firing of Alexandre Gallo, said Neymar’s participation in the Rio Olympics was dependent on talks with Barcelona, according to O Globo.

Neymar may be the 2016 Olympic host nation’s most famous potential Olympian, but there is at least some question of whether he will suit up at the Rio Games.

Copa America Centenario is slated to take place from June 3-26. Soccer at the 2016 Olympics takes place from Aug. 3-20. Neymar plays for Barcelona in La Liga, whose season usually begins in late August. That would be a busy summer of national team duty, which may not sit well with Barcelona.

Three of the world’s other top players — Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo, Paris Saint-Germain’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Messi — also play internationally for nations that qualified for Rio 2016 (Portugal, Sweden and Argentina).

World Cup winner Germany also qualified for Rio.

Olympic soccer teams are made up of players aged 23 and under. There’s also an option of having three over-age players, which is where Neymar, Ronaldo, Ibrahimovic and Messi would come in.

Some nations take greater advantage of the Olympic rule that allows three over-age players more than others. In 2012, Brazil used its exceptions on three exceptional players —HulkMarcelo and Thiago Silva — who started for Brazil in the 2014 World Cup.

Brazil, which has won five World Cups, has never won Olympic gold in soccer. It won silver in 1984, 1988 and 2012 and bronze in 1996 and 2008.

Neymar, then 20, was part of the 2012 Olympic team that lost to Mexico in the final.

Also Friday, FIFA confirmed that the Qatar 2022 World Cup would not interfere with the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, as the IOC has said for months.

The 2022 World Cup dates are Nov. 21-Dec. 18, which will coincide with various winter sports seasons.

MORE SOCCER: World Cup players left off U.S. Olympic soccer qualifying roster

World Cup ticket scam prompts IOC to review ticketing for Rio Olympics

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Following the ongoing scandal involving hospitality companies partnered with FIFA for the World Cup, the International Olympic Committee will consider changing the ticketing process for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Reuters reports that IOC President Thomas Bach has asked Gilbert Felli, IOC Executive Director, ” to coordinate with the organizing committee and legal authorities and public authorities in Brazil” to ensure the Rio Games aren’t plagued by the scalping issues seen at the World Cup.

“We have a system in place, this system has been improved after London (2012). But it is under constant monitoring because it has to be adapted to the national legislation in the host country,” Bach explained.

The 2012 London Games saw thousands of tickets being sold illegally, as well as technical issues with the official ticket seller, Ticketmaster.

The Brazilian police are currently investigating allegations that one of its hospitality partner companies was involved in ticket scalping. On July 7th Raymond Whelan, an executive of Match Hospitality, was arrested for questioning at his hotel in Rio de Janerio. 11 other people believed to be members of the World Cup ticket scalping ring have been arrested, the AP reports.

IOC prez praises ‘dynamism’ of Rio’s progress but warns ‘there is still no time to lose’

World Cup stars who played in Olympics (photos)

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Soccer has mostly been a showcase for youth at the Olympics, with a rule limiting nations to a maximum of three players over age 23.

That has somewhat leveled the playing field — Nigeria and Cameroon won gold medals in 1996 and 2000 — and also provided international tournament experience to players would go on to become World Cup stars. This is apparent when looking at the 2014 World Cup squads.

One non-household name, the oldest player at the 2014 World Cup, 42-year-old Colombian goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon, was on Colombia’s roster at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

Here’s a gallery of this year’s World Cup stars who double as Olympians:

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FIFA Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo scored one goal for Portugal at the 2004 Olympics when he was 19, two years before his World Cup debut. Portugal is best known at those Athens Games for being upset by Iraq in their opener and being eliminated in the group stage.

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Four-time FIFA World Player of the Year Lionel Messi (seen here with World Cup teammate Sergio Aguero) scored twice during Argentina’s run to 2008 Olympic gold.

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Neymar, the star of the World Cup host nation, scored three times at the London Olympics. But Brazil couldn’t overcome Mexico in the gold-medal game. Brazil and Mexico will face off again at the World Cup on June 17.

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Recognize this American? That’s Michael Bradley, before he went bald, at the 2008 Olympics (with Japanese star Shinji Kagawa, also set to play at the World Cup). The U.S. failed to advance out of group play in 2008 (and didn’t qualify for the 2004 or 2012 Olympics). Also on that 2008 U.S. team were World Cup players Jozy Altidore and Brad Guzan. No. 1 U.S. goalie Tim Howard was on the 2000 U.S. Olympic Team that finished fourth, but he didn’t play (alas, no photos readily available). Omission Landon Donovan, too, was on the 2000 U.S. Olympic Team, when he had blond hair.

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Polarizing striker Luis Suarez was an over-23 player at the London Games, but it didn’t do Uruguay much good. The South American nation that made the 2010 World Cup semifinals lost to Senegal and failed to make it out of group.

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Xavi scored twice for silver medal-winning Spain at the 2000 Olympics, two years before he made his first World Cup team in 2002. The midfield maestro is pictured here with longtime South Korean star Park Ji-sung, who played at the 2002, 2006 and 2010 World Cups.

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Samuel Eto’o and Cameroon beat Xavi and Spain in the 2000 Olympic final. Both players scored in regulation (a 2-2 draw) and converted penalty kicks.

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Giovani dos Santos was part of Mexico’s gold-medal team at the 2012 Olympics, scoring three goals, but missed the final against Brazil due to injury.

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Andrea Pirlo is a two-time Olympian for Italy. He played in 2000, when Italy was eliminated by Xavi and Spain in the quarterfinals, and in 2004, when Italy won bronze. Also of note for Italy, longtime goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was the youngest member of its 1996 Olympic roster at age 18.

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Didier Drogba is not an Olympian, but the Ivory Coast striker did take part in the 2012 Olympic torch relay.

Remembering the ‘Ohno celebration’ at 2002 World Cup