The men's and women's soccer competitions at the Olympics consist of two stages, a group stage and a knockout stage. The men’s group stage, with 16 total teams, features four groups of four teams each. The women’s group stage, with 12 teams, includes three groups of four. The group drawing accounts for seeding and geography. In this way, teams avoid playing neighboring countries in early matches. Each team plays the others in its group once, with three points for a victory, one point for a draw and none for a defeat. Teams are ranked by most total points accumulated in the group, and ties are broken by goal difference.
For the men, the top two teams in each group advance to the knockout stage. For the women, the top two teams in each group and the two best third-place teams advance. In both tournaments, the knockout stage begins with the quarterfinal round. All knockout stage matchups are contested over one 90-minute game. In the event of a tie after the 90 minutes, a 30-minute extra time period is played, followed by a penalty shootout if necessary.
The winners of the quarterfinal matches face off in the semifinals. The semifinal winners advance to the Gold Medal Match, the semifinal losers play in the Bronze Medal Match.