Japan upset the United States 3-1 in the gold medal game of the Olympic softball tournament in the 2008 Summer Games. Now, as softball returns to the Olympics for the first time in 13 years, those two teams are once again the clear favorites to win gold in Tokyo.

Olympic softball odds USA Japan
The United States will start the Olympic softball competition as the gold medal favorite, but will face a stiff challenge from defending champion Japan. (Image: Jacob Ford/Odessa American/AP)

Team USA enters the Olympic softball tournament as the -210 favorite to win gold, according to FanDuel Sportsbook, with Japan the +200 second choice.

USA, Japan dominate Olympic softball landscape

The United States and Japan have met in the finals of every world championship event since 2002. The Americans won five of those seven encounters. Team USA has also won three of the four Olympic softball gold medals, with Japan picking up the 2008 title.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) eliminated baseball and softball from its program after 2008. The sports only returned for the 2020 Tokyo Games because Japan strongly supports both. Neither softball nor baseball will be a part of the 2024 Olympics. But players hope their sport will return on a permanent basis as soon as 2028, when the Summer Olympics head to Los Angeles.

“I hope we put on a show and let the IOC know that we deserve to be in the Olympic Games as a regular sport,” pitcher Monica Abbott, who played on the 2008 team and is one of two returning Team USA members from that squad, told The San Francisco Chronicle. “There’s a lost generation in softball. Without the Olympic Games, there has been little chance to have a full-time career in softball.”

The Olympic softball tournament will utilize a straightforward format. The six participating nations will play in a full round-robin. At the end of pool play, the top two finishers will compete in a gold medal game, while the third and fourth place teams will battle for bronze.

Canada, Australia top contenders for bronze

Outside of the United States and Japan, at least three other teams come in to Tokyo with realistic chances to find a place on the medal podium. Canada (+850) enters the event as the bronze medal favorites, despite never having won a medal in Olympic softball. Canada did win the bronze at the 2018 Women’s Softball World Cup.

Meanwhile, Australia (+1400) ranks as the third-most successful nation in Olympic softball history. The Aussies have medaled all four times that the sport appeared in the Summer Games, winning a silver medal in 2004 along with three bronze medals.

Olympic Softball Odds (via FanDuel Sportsbook)
United States: -210 Japan: +200
Canada: +850 Australia: +1400
Mexico: +1800 Italy: +5000

Mexico (+1800) ranks as a dark horse to compete for a medal, despite the fact that the country has never before competed in the Olympics. The Mexicans did make the playoffs at the 2018 World Cup, finishing sixth. Meanwhile, Italy enters as a +5000 long shot to win gold.

The Olympic softball tournament starts well before Friday’s opening ceremony. Japan plays Australia on Wednesday morning local time, with the United States starting its campaign against Italy three hours later – at 11 pm Eastern in the USA on Tuesday night.