The football tournament at the 1984 Summer Olympics started on July 29 and ended on August 11. It featured only a men's tournament, as women's football had yet to become an Olympic event. It was the first Olympic football competition in which professionals were allowed. Until then, the amateur-only rule had heavily favored socialist countries from Eastern Europe whose players were professionals in all but name. However, as agreed with FIFA to preserve the primacy of the World Cup, the Olympic competition was restricted to players with no more than five "A" cap at tournament start, regardless of age.
Sixteen teams qualified for the Olympic tournament after continental qualifying rounds. Three Warsaw Pact countries had qualified but withdrew as part of the Soviet-led boycott. They were replaced as follows: