In the world league, there are specific rules that do not allow matches to end in a draw. If teams are level at the end of the 4th quarter of any world league match, the match will be decided by a penalty shootout. Teams earn points in the standings in group matches as follows:
There were 8 entries into the league from Europe, and these were drawn into two groups of four teams. The teams were placed into groups based on their performance in the 2011 FINA Women's Water Polo World League.
All teams will play the other teams twice. The first round-robin will be held at the Shanghai Oriental Sports Center in Shanghai and the second round-robin will be held from 8–12 May 2012 at the Chiba International Swimming Complex in Narashino, Chiba, Japan. The winner will advance to the Super Final. As China has already qualified as the hosts, if they win the Asia/Oceania League, the second-placed team will advance.
All teams will play the other teams in their group twice. All games in Group A will be played from 10–13 May 2012 in Syracuse, Sicily, Italy, and all games in Group B will be played from 10–13 May 2012 in Volos, Greece. The top two teams in each group will advance to the Super Final.