Theoretically, up to 55 CAF member associations may enter the 2011 CAF Champions League, with the 12 highest ranked associations according to CAF 5-Year Ranking eligible to enter 2 teams in the competition. For this year's competition, CAF used 2005-09 5-Year ranking. As a result, a maximum of 67 teams could enter the tournament – although this level has never been reached.
CAF calculates points for each entrant association based on their clubs’ performance over the last 5 years in the CAF Champions League and CAF Confederation Cup, not taking into considering the running year. The criteria for points are the following:
Below is the entrants list for the competition. Nations are shown according to their 2005–2009 CAF 5-Year Ranking – those with a ranking score have their rank and score indicated. Teams were also seeded using their individual team 2006–2010 5-Year Ranking. The top nine sides (shown in bold) received byes to the first qualifying round.
The fixtures for the preliminary, first and second qualifying rounds were announced on 20 December 2010.
Qualification ties were decided over two legs, with aggregate goals used to determine the winner. If the sides were level on aggregate after the second leg, the away goals rule applied, and if still level, the tie proceeded directly to a penalty shootout (no extra time is played).
Note 3: Al-Ittihad advanced to the second round after JC Abidjan withdrew. Tie was scheduled to be played at a neutral venue over one leg due to the political situations in Côte d'Ivoire and Libya, but match did not take place.
Note 4: Tie played over one leg due to the political situation in Côte d'Ivoire.
Note 5: Second leg abandoned on 90+5 minutes with Zamalek SC leading 2–1 (Club Africain leading 5–4 on aggregate) when Zamalek SC fans invaded the pitch.
Note 6: TP Mazembe won 6–3 on aggregate, but were later disqualified for fielding an ineligible player. As a result, Simba played against Moroccan side Wydad Casablanca, which lost to TP Mazembe in the second round, in a play-off for a place in the group stage.
Note 7: Ties scheduled to be played over one leg due to the political situations in Côte d'Ivoire and Libya.
Note 8: Second leg abandoned on 81 minutes with the score at 1–1 (Al-Hilal leading 2–1 on aggregate) when Club Africain fans invaded the pitch.
Note 9: TP Mazembe won 2–1 on aggregate, but were later disqualified for fielding an ineligible player in the first round. As a result, Wydad Casablanca played against Tanzanian side Simba, which lost to TP Mazembe in the first round, in a play-off for a place in the group stage.
On 14 May 2011, the CAF announced that TP Mazembe from Congo DR were disqualified from the Champions League group stage following a complaint about the eligibility of TP Mazembe's player Janvier Besala Bokungu from Tanzanian side Simba, which lost to them in the first round. As a result, the Organising Committee decided that a replacement for the group stage would be determined by a play-off match at a neutral venue, between Simba and Moroccan side Wydad Casablanca, which lost to TP Mazembe in the second round.