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Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd headline U.S. roster for Olympic qualifying

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Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd lead a 20-player U.S. Olympic soccer qualifying roster, which could be a peek at what the team could look like in Tokyo.

The U.S. women, reigning World Cup champions after being upset in the Rio Olympic quarterfinals, will clinch an Olympic spot by placing top two at a CONCACAF qualifier in the United States from Jan. 28-Feb. 9.

The Americans played in every Olympic soccer tournament since women debuted at the 1996 Atlanta Games. Given they are ranked No. 1 in the world, and only one other CONCACAF nation is in the top 25 (No. 8 Canada), they will be heavy favorites to reach the Olympic qualifier final.

The qualifying team of 20:

Goalkeepers
Adrianna Franch
Ashlyn Harris
Alyssa Naeher

Defenders
Abby Dahlkemper
Crystal Dunn
Ali Krieger
Kelley O’Hara
Becky Sauerbrunn
Emily Sonnett

Midfielders
Julie Ertz
Lindsey Horan
Rose Lavelle
Samantha Mewis
Andi Sullivan

Forwards
Tobin Heath
Carli Lloyd
Jessica McDonald
Christen Press
Megan Rapinoe
Lynn Williams

The eight players who were named in December to this month’s camp who didn’t make the team: goalie Jane Campbell and field players Tierna Davidson, Midge Purce, Casey Short, Morgan Brian, Allie Long, Mallory Pugh and Sophia Smith.

Brian, Long and Pugh made the Rio Olympic team. The Tokyo Olympic team will be 18 players, two fewer than qualifying, with the roster likely to include two goalies.

Competition to make the final 18 will intensify in the spring, in part due to the expected return of forward Alex Morgan from pregnancy. The last two Olympic teams each had four forwards, but new coach Vlatko Andonovski may be signaling a different makeup by putting six on the qualifying team.

Williams and Sullivan are the only two players on the qualifying roster who were not on the 23-player 2019 World Cup champion team.

In 2016, Rapinoe was not on the Olympic qualifying roster due to an ACL tear but came back to make the Olympic team.

Lloyd, who turns 38 a week before the Tokyo Games, is bidding to become the oldest U.S. Olympic soccer player in history, breaking Christie Rampone‘s record. Lloyd and Heath are trying to tie Rampone’s U.S. record of playing in four Olympic tournaments.

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North Korea to skip Olympic soccer qualifier in South Korea

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North Korea will skip an Olympic women’s soccer qualifying tournament hosted by South Korea in February.

The Asian Football Confederation confirmed a Yonhap News Agency report of North Korea’s withdrawal.

North Korea is ranked 11th in the world, second-highest among Asian nations trying to qualify for the Tokyo Games behind No. 7 Australia. Two nations will qualify via Asia to join Japan, ranked 10th and automatically qualified for the Olympics as host nation.

North Korea would have been scheduled to play South Korea on the South Korean island of Jeju at the Olympic qualifier.

Women’s soccer is the only team sport where North Korea fielded a squad at recent Olympics, doing so in 2008 and 2012. It earned one win at each of those Games and lost 1-0 to the U.S. in London.

In 2017, North Korea competed at a lower-level women’s ice hockey world championship in South Korea. Ten months later, North Korean players were added to the South Korean team at the PyeongChang Olympics. The two nations also marched together at the Opening Ceremony under a unified Korea flag.

“Talks about having another joint march and fielding more unified teams at the Tokyo Olympics have all but died,” according to Yonhap.

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Ten memorable Summer Olympic gold-medal moments from 2010s

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NBCSports.com looks back at the 2010s this week. Here are 10 Summer Olympic gold-medal moments that defined the decade …

London 2012: Fierce Five puts U.S. back atop women’s gymnastics
Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Jordyn Wieber, McKayla Maroney and Kyla Ross became the first U.S. gymnastics team to win an Olympic title outside of a home Games. This group set the tone for what would become a dynasty — the U.S. women have won every Olympic and world team and all-around title since 2011. Douglas went on to capture the all-around in London. Raisman grabbed her all-around medal in Rio, a silver. Wieber kicked it off with the 2011 World all-around crown. Maroney was shockingly relegated to silver in the 2012 Olympic vault final, then repeated as world champion in 2013. Ross would join Simone Biles on world all-around podiums in 2013 and 2014.

London 2012: Michael Phelps breaks career Olympic medals record
Though Phelps broke Mark Spitz‘s single-Games mark by taking eight golds in 2008, he entered the decade in second place on the career Olympic medals list behind 1950s and ’60s Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina. Phelps needed three medals in London — what he said would be his final Games — to take the lead with 19 total. He tied and broke the record on the same night with a silver behind Chad le Clos in the 200m butterfly and gold anchoring the 4x200m freestyle relay. Phelps went on to win another nine Olympic medals between London and Rio — with a brief retirement in between — to finish with 28 medals and 23 golds. Latynina, with 18 medals and nine golds, is now a distant second.

London 2012: Misty May-Treanor/Kerri Walsh Jennings three-peat
The greatest team in beach volleyball history took their final bow together at Horse Guards Parade, completing an undefeated run for a third straight Olympics. May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings had separate win streaks of 90 and 112 matches in the 2000s but were vulnerable going into London. They had won four of their 17 international events together since May-Treanor unretired in 2011. But they dropped just one set in seven matches at the Olympics, sweeping countrywomen Jen Kessy and April Ross in the final. May-Treanor retired from international play for good, while Walsh Jennings planted the seed of her next partnership at the net after the final. She and Ross paired and earned bronze in Rio.

London 2012: David Rudisha breaks world record in epic 800m final
Maybe the greatest race in history. The Maasai warrior Rudisha was tapped by many to break his own world record in his Olympic debut. He did it, leading from the break and towing six of the seven other finalists to personal bests. Rudisha clocked 1:40.91, becoming the first man to break 1:41. Every runner’s time was the fastest ever for that finishing placement. “It was the performance of the Games, not just of track and field, but of the Games,” said London 2012 chairman Seb Coe, a former 800m world-record holder.

London 2012: David Boudia wins platform on final dive
Boudia, after qualifying last out of 18 divers out of preliminaries, entered the sixth and last final-round dive in a virtual tie with world champion Qiu Bo of China and British favorite Tom Daley. For the biggest dive of his life, Boudia performed the highest-scoring dive of the day — 102.60 points — on a back two-and-a-half somersault with two-and-a-half twists in the pike position. He won by 1.80 points over Qiu, giving the U.S. its first Olympic diving title since Laura Wilkinson in 2000.

Rio 2016: Simone Biles, Aly Raisman go 1-2 in all-around
For Biles, gold was a coronation marking four years of unprecedented excellence. For Raisman, silver was sweet, representing a three-year comeback journey to become an even better gymnast than she was in London (where she missed an all-around medal on a tiebreak). Biles’ margin of victory — 2.1 points — was greater than the previous nine Olympic margins combined. Raisman had a 1.433-point edge over bronze medalist Aliya Mustafina, greater than the margin separating Mustafina from the 10th-place finisher.

Rio 2016: Katie Ledecky completes 4-gold-medal Games with second world record
You can’t ask much more of a swimmer than a personal best. When Ledecky does that, it usually means a world record. She shattered personal bests in the 200m, 400m and 800m freestyles en route to four golds (including the 4x200m free relay) at her second Olympics. The 400m and 800m frees were world records, nearly two seconds faster than the previous marks. Ledecky shed rare tears after the last race, the 800m free, knowing it was her final one under D.C.-area coach Bruce Gemmell before matriculating at Stanford.

Rio 2016: Wayde van Niekerk breaks Michael Johnson’s 400m world record
From way out in lane eight, the South African took down Johnson’s 17-year-old world record in perhaps the most astonishing feat of the Games. Van Niekerk, then coached by a 74-year-old grandmother (Ans Botha), clocked 43.03 seconds. Usain Bolt, watching on a TV in the stadium, covered his mouth in a similar reaction to many at the Maracana. The two sprinters trained together earlier that year. “Bolt told me in Jamaica, ‘You will break the world record,'” van Niekerk said in Rio. “Tonight [Bolt] said, ‘I told you you can do it.'”

Rio 2016: Usain Bolt finishes golden Olympic career
With one last relay leg, the Jamaican bid farewell to the Olympics with a “triple-triple,” gold medals in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m at the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Olympics (the 2008 relay title would later be stripped for a teammate’s doping). Though Bolt turned a close 4x100m into a runaway on anchor, perhaps the more memorable image of that night came hours later. Some time after midnight, Bolt made his way back onto the track and threw a javelin.

Rio 2016: Neymar wins Brazil’s first Olympic soccer title in shootout
In what he later called the most nervous moment of his life, Neymar calmly netted the decisive shootout attempt in the Olympic final at the Maracana. The opponent: Germany, whose national team trounced Brazil 7-1 two years earlier in the World Cup semifinals, also in Brazil. Neymar dropped to his knees, was mobbed by teammates and then sobbed. Brazil, a five-time World Cup champion, earned its first Olympic soccer title and its most coveted medal of the Rio Games.

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