The good news for the U.S. women's soccer team is that it should have no trouble reaching the Olympic quarterfinals. The bad news: The Americans must play an extra game.
Wednesday's draw in Athens reflected the uneven format organizers have devised for the third appearance by women's soccer in the Summer Games.
Ten teams were put into three groups. The United States was grouped with Brazil, Australia and Greece while the other two groups have three teams apiece.
Teams in the U.S. group must play three games in seven days to complete the first round. Teams in the other groups will play two games in seven days. If the United States meets China in the quarterfinals, China will enter the game with five or six days of rest to two or three for the Americans.
FIFA, the world governing body, had added a quarterfinal round. That means the first round essentially exists to eliminate just two teams, reducing the field from 10 to eight for the start of single-elimination play.
That's where being in the group with Greece helps the United States. The Greeks are in the tournament because they are the host nation, and will be the overwhelming favorite to finish last in the group.
The Americans open on the island of Crete, facing Greece at Iraklion on Aug. 11, two days before the opening ceremony.
The United States then gets a break with the next two games in the same city, Thessaloniki, eliminating a travel day. The Americans play Brazil on Aug. 14 and wrap up the first round in Group G against Australia on Aug. 17.
The strongest group is F, pitting World Cup champion Germany, perennial power China and up-and-coming Mexico. Germany and China meet on the first day, a high-grade start to the Olympic competition.
Sweden will be favored in the other group, Group E, which includes Japan and Nigeria.
Norway, the defending Olympic champion and U.S. nemesis, failed to qualify. Europe did not hold a qualifying tournament, deciding to pick its top two teams from last year's World Cup.
The men are divided into four groups of four _ the United States did not qualify although Iraq did. The Iraqis were placed in Group D with Costa Rica, Morocco and Portugal.
Greece, South Korea, Mali and Mexico are in Group A. Paraguay, Japan, Ghana and Italy are in Group B. Argentina, Serbia-Montenegro, Tunisia and Australia are in Group C.