Why soccer at the Rio Olympics actually starts before the opening ceremony

People all over the world, from the United States to Uzbekistan, are awaiting the opening ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio on Friday. But, uh, what are you doing Wednesday and Thursday?

While the Olympics officially kick off on Friday, the soccer competitions start beforehand, with the women's competition beginning on Wednesday and the men playing Thursday.

Here's what you need to know.

Why does it start early?

So the games, for the most part, run from Aug. 5 and end on Aug. 21, but the soccer competition needs more time to be completed. With 16 teams on the men's side and 12 on the women's side, each team is guaranteed three group stage matches, and then quarterfinals, semifinals and medal games follow. In total, there are 58 soccer matches. To expect that to be done in two less days, considering the rest needed, isn't realistic. It usually takes big-time tourneys like the World Cup, Copa America and Euros a month to play out.

Are all the games in Rio?

No. And this is common with all Olympic tourneys. Only 12 of the 58 matches are being played in the host city -- six on the men's side and six on the women's side, including both gold medal games. Matches are also being played in Salvador, Sao Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Brasilia and Manaus. Why, you ask? Well, just think for a second. What if the Olympics were in New York City or Los Angeles? There aren't enough proper venues in those cities to host all of the soccer matches. Heck, the final in NYC would be at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. Think of the London Olympics as a prime example. We saw games in Manchester, Newcastle, Glasgow, Cardiff and many other places outside of Wembley Stadium in London.

Okay, so who's playing?

I'm glad you asked. Soccer at the Olympics start off with a bang. All participants play in the first day of the tournament. Here's what we have on tap.

For full group standings and results, check out our trusty page for men's and women's.

Women's Soccer: Wednesday, Aug. 3

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Sweden 1-0
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South Africa
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Canada 2-0
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Australia
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Brazil 3-0
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China
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Germany 6-1
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Zimbabwe
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USWNT 2-0.
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New Zealand
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France 4-0
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Colombia

Men's Soccer: Thursday, Aug. 4

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Iraq 0-0
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Denmark FT
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Honduras 3-2
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Algeria FT
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Brazil 0-0
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South Africa FT
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Mexico 2-2
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Germany FT
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Portugal 2-0
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Argentina FT
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Sweden 2-2
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Colombia FT
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Fiji 0-8
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South Korea FT
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Nigeria 5-4
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Japan FT

And that ends our lecture for today.

For homework, let your friends know that they don't have to wait till Friday for the Olympics to begin. We are just hours away.

For news, stories, results and more, follow us:

- @CBSSportsSoccer - @RGonzalezCBS - Facebook

CBS Sports Writer

Roger Gonzalez is an award-winning writer based in Virginia that has covered pro soccer from Europe's top clubs to Argentina's first division. Roger started out his pro soccer writing career with Goal.com... Full Bio

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