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These players have been crucial to their national teams at the Summer Games.

After a year’s delay, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will kickoff with the opening ceremony on July 23. The football tournament at the Olympics is one of the first events to begin. The sport has a huge history at the Summer Games. Both men’s and women’s football tournaments are held every four years. The competition is intense as teams eye a podium finish.

There are a handful of individual players, who have experienced Olympic football the most number of times. Interestingly, the leading appearance-makers at the Summer Games are all women, even though women’s football was introduced as late as the 1996 Atlanta Games.

Perhaps this is also because there are no age restrictions when it comes to women footballers. As for their male counterparts, only three players above the age of 23 are allowed per team. Having said that, some iconic figures in women’s football have graced the Olympic Games extensively. Here are the top five footballers with the most appearances at the Olympics:

5. Kristine Lilly (USA) 16

Kristine Lilly holds the record for most international appearances in football (Courtesy: FIFA)

The former USWNT player represented the country 354 times. She is the all-time leading appearance-maker in international football, male or football. She has also scored over 130 goals for the US women’s national team, which is the third-highest mark.

Kristine Lilly played 16 games at the Olympics for the US women’s team. She took part in five Women’s World Cups and three editions of the Olympics. The player featured at the 1996, 2000 and 2004 Games. Kristine could not participate at the 2008 Beijing Games due to the birth of her child.

4. Carli Lloyd (USA) 17

Carli Lloyd is one of the oldest active players at the ongoing women’s football tournament in Tokyo. Representing the USWNT, she has played over 17 games in the tournament. She is a legend in the women’s game and a two-time Olympic champion. 

Lloyd won the gold during the 2008 and 2012 Olympics in Beijing and London respectively, in addition to playing in four editions. She will probably play her final Olympics in 2020 and can play a maximum of six games, if the USWNT reach the gold medal match. If that happens, she will become the leading appearance-maker in women’s football for the United States.

3. Christie Pearce (USA) 22

Pearce has won three Olympics gold medals for the US Women’s National Team (Courtesy: Heavy.com)

Christie Pearce is the all-time leading appearance-maker for USWNT at the Summer Olympic Games. The defender has played 22 games and has been part of 19 wins, which is also a record. Pearce retired from international football in 2015. Her record is in danger of being surpassed by compatriot Carli Lloyd. 

The 46-year-old was instrumental in each of the three Olympic gold medals she won for her country. The three golds came during the 2004 Athens, 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Games. Moreover, she is also a two-time World Cup winner. 

2. Marta (Brazil) 23

Marta is arguably the greatest female footballer in the women’s game. The Brazilian is still going strong and recently became the only player to score at five consecutive Olympics. She will lead the country’s charge at the ongoing football tournament in Tokyo.

Marta has 23 appearances for Brazil at the Olympics. As she is still an active part of the team, the number will go up and so will her teammate Formiga’s record. Perhaps, Marta might need to play in her sixth Olympics after four years to make the most Olympics appearances record by footballers her own.

1. Formiga (Brazil) 30

footballers most appearances Olympics
She became the first footballer to make appearances in five consecutive Olympic events (Courtesy: Olympics)

A living legend of Brazilian football, Formiga is currently playing her seventh Olympics. The record holder has played 30 matches and will add more to her tally at the ongoing tournament in Tokyo. She featured in the country’s latest game against China in a 5-0 victory. Formiga holds the record for most Olympics appearances by footballers in its history.

These will surely be her last Olympic Games and the Brazilian will end the campaign while holding the record. Only Marta could break the 43-year-old’s feat, if she continues with the national team in the next edition of the Summer Olympics.

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