Theoretically, up to 55 CAF member associations may enter the 2012 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 2006-10 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 2006–2010 CAF 5-Year Ranking – those with a ranking score have their rank and score indicated. Teams were also seeded using their individual 2007–2011 5-Year team Ranking. The top thirteen sides (shown in bold) received byes to the first qualifying round.
† According to the formula for calculating the CAF 5-Year Ranking, Angola, Côte d'Ivoire, and Zambia are tied 12th place with 13 ranking points. As stated in local media reports, Côte d'Ivoire have two entrants, while Angola and Zambia have one entrant.
Unranked associations have no ranking points and hence are equal 19th.
Unranked teams have no rankings points and hence are equal 18th. Club ranking is determined only between teams qualified for the 2012 CAF Champions League.
The fixtures for the preliminary, first and second qualifying rounds were announced on 9 December 2011.
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 was applied, and if still level, the tie proceeded directly to a penalty shootout (no extra time was played).
The draw for the group stage was held on 15 May 2012. The eight teams were seeded into four pots (using their individual 2007–2011 5-Year team Ranking). Each group contained one team from each pot. The matchdays were 6–8 July, 20–22 July, 3–5 August, 17–19 August, 31 August–2 September, and 14–16 September.
Key to colours in group tables
Group winners and runners-up advance to the Semifinals
Note 2: The match Étoile du Sahel v Espérance ST on Matchday 4 was abandoned due to crowd disturbance. The CAF decided to disqualify Étoile du Sahel as a result and all results obtained previously by Étoile du Sahel within Group A were cancelled.