For both men and women, the Olympic beach volleyball competition consists of two stages: preliminary rounds and single elimination.

Preliminary rounds

In the preliminary rounds, the 24 teams (of each gender) are divided into six pools of four teams. The teams then follow a round-robin format, playing each of the other three teams in their pool once. Two points are awarded to the winner of a pool match, one point goes to the loser, and zero points are awarded to a forfeiting team. After all pool matches have been played, each team is ranked within its pool based on the total number of points. If there is a tie, the ranking is based on head-to-head play. If teams from different pools are tied, the ranking is determined by the ratio of matches won/lost, the ratio of sets won/lost, and the ratio of points won/lost during pool play.

The top two teams in each pool (12 total), along with the two best third-ranked teams, advance to a 16-team, single-elimination round. The remaining four third-placed teams will play "Lucky Loser" matches, with the two winners advancing to the round of 16.

Single elimination

At this point, the winner of a match progresses, the loser is eliminated. The tournament continues in single elimination format until the semifinals, after which the two winning teams compete for the gold medal and the two losing teams play in the bronze-medal match.