The format for the Olympic volleyball tournament is the same for men and women. Prior to the Games, each 12-team field is divided into two groups.
The competition begins with a preliminary round, in which each team plays the other five in its group once. This is also known as "round-robin" play. Teams receive three points for a 3-0 or 3-1 victory, two points for a 3-2 victory, or one point for a match lost 2-3. No points are awarded for games lost 0-3, 1-3 or by forfeit.
Upon conclusion of the preliminary round, the top four teams in each group advance to the quarterfinals with a chance to win a medal; the fifth- and sixth-place teams from each group are out of medal contention.
If at the end of the preliminary round two or more teams have the same number of points, their rankings are decided as follows:
- Number of victories: If two or more teams have an equal number of ranking points, they will be classified by number of total matches won
- Number of sets won: If the tie still is not broken, the teams will be classified by the score resulting from the number of sets won divided by the number of sets lost
- Number of points scored: If the tie is still not broken, the teams will be classified by the score resulting from the number of points scored divided by the number of total points lost during all sets
- Priority: If a tie exists between two teams, priority will be given to the team that won the last match between them
- Three-way tie: If a tie exists between three or more teams, a classification will be decided based on matches they played against each other
The top four teams in each pool will the enter the quarterfinals. The quarterfinals are played in a single-elimination format.
The four quarterfinal winners advance to the semifinals.
The losing semifinalists face each other; the winner takes bronze, the loser is fourth.
The semifinal winners meet in the final, with gold to the winner and silver to the loser.