Monterrey won their third consecutive title after defeating Santos Laguna in an all-Mexican final, and equaled Cruz Azul's feat of winning three consecutive CONCACAF club titles (1969–71), when the competition was known as the CONCACAF Champions' Cup.
Twenty-four teams participate in the 2012–13 CONCACAF Champions League from the North American, Central American, and Caribbean zones. Nine of the teams come from North America, twelve from Central America, and three from the Caribbean.
Teams may be disqualified and replaced by a team from a different country if the club does not have an available stadium that meets CONCACAF regulations for safety. If a club's own stadium fails to meet the set standards then it may find a suitable replacement stadium within its own country. However, if it is still determined that the club cannot provide the adequate facilities then it runs the risk of being replaced.
A total of nine clubs from the North American Football Union participate in the Champions League. Mexico and the United States are allocated four spots, the most of any CONCACAF nation, while Canada is granted one spot in the tournament.
In Mexico, the winners of the Mexican Primera División Apertura and Clausura tournaments earn berths in Pot A of the tournament's group stage, while the Apertura and Clausura runners-up earn berths in Pot B.
For the United States, three of its four spots are allocated through the Major League Soccer (MLS) regular season and playoffs, while the fourth spot is allocated to whoever wins the domestic cup competition, the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The winner of the Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup (if US-based) are placed in Pot A; the MLS Cup runner-up (if US-based) and the U.S. Open Cup winner are placed in Pot B.
The winner of Canada's domestic cup competition, the Canadian Championship, earns the lone Canadian berth into the tournament, in Pot B. Despite the inclusion of Canadian teams in MLS, they cannot qualify for the CONCACAF Champions League through MLS, and if a Canadian-based MLS team win the Supporters' Shield or play in the MLS Cup final, the Champions League place is allocated to the US-based team with the best MLS regular season record who has failed to otherwise qualify.
Twelve clubs from the Central American Football Union qualify to the Champions League. If one or more clubs is precluded, it is supplanted by a club from another Central American federation. The reallocation would be based on results from previous Champions League tournaments.
For the Central American representatives that qualify via split seasons, in nations that play a playoff to determine a national champion, the winner gains the nation's top spot. In nations that don't utilize such methods, total points over both seasons, followed by other tiebreakers, determine which team gains the nation's top spot. The pots of the teams are as follows:
Three berths in Pot C are allocated to the top three finishers of the CFU Club Championship, a subcontinental tournament for clubs from nations of the Caribbean Football Union. In order for a Caribbean club to qualify for the CFU Club Championship, they would need to finish as the champion (or in some cases, runner-up) in their respective nation's top league in the previous season.
If any Caribbean club is precluded, it is supplanted by the fourth place finisher from the CFU Club Championship.
* Number of appearances, last appearance, and previous best result count only those in the CONCACAF Champions League era starting from 2008–09 (not counting those in the era of the Champions' Cup from 1962 to 2008).
† Because Belize does not have a stadium which meets CONCACAF'S minimum standards for the Champions League, the spot normally reserved for Belize's champion was reallocated to El Salvador, since it was the only Central American nation to send a team to the 2011–12 CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals.
Mexico (MEX): Because Santos Laguna, the 2011 Apertura runner-up, also won the 2012 Clausura, they relinquished the spot allocated to the Apertura runner-up to Guadalajara, the team with the best regular season record in the Apertura, based on the formula outlined by the Mexican Football Federation.
On January 12, 2012, CONCACAF announced that the 2012–13 tournament would be played under a different format than previous editions, where the preliminary round is eliminated and all qualified teams enter the group stage. In the group stage, the 24 teams are drawn into eight groups of three, with each group containing one team from each of the three pots. The allocation of teams into pots are based on their national association and qualifying berth. Teams from the same association (excluding "wildcard" teams which replace a team from another association) cannot be drawn with each other in the group stage, and each group is guaranteed to contain a team from either the United States or Mexico, meaning U.S. and Mexican teams cannot play each other in the group stage. Each group is played on a home-and-away round-robin basis. The winners of each group advance to the championship stage.
In the championship stage, the eight teams play a single-elimination tournament. Each tie is played on a home-and-away two-legged basis. The away goals rule is used if the aggregate score is level after normal time of the second leg, but not after extra time, and so a tie is decided by penalty shoot-out if the aggregate score is level after extra time of the second leg. Unlike previous years where a second draw was conducted to set the pairings for the championship stage, the bracket is determined by the teams' record in the group stage. The quarterfinals match the team with the best record against the team with the worst record, while the second-best team faces the seventh-best, third against sixth and fourth against fifth. The top four teams play the second leg at home. In the semifinals, the winner of 1-vs-8 faces the winner of 4-vs-5, with the 1-vs-8 winner hosting the second leg, and likewise 2-vs-7 plays 3-vs-6, with the 2-vs-7 winner hosting the second leg. In the finals, the team that prevails out of the upper bracket of 1-8-4-5 hosts the second leg. This means that the higher-seeded team does not necessarily host the second leg in the semifinals and finals.