Starting from 2011, the most recent Copa Sudamericana champion would earn a berth in the tournament. However, the country of the Copa Sudamericana champion would not gain an extra berth. The Copa Sudamericana champion would take the lowest-placed berth already assigned to the country if they did not qualify for the Copa Libertadores through domestic performance.
The draw for the 2011 Copa Libertadores was held on November 25, 2010 in Asunción. The drawing procedure for the 12 teams in the first stage was to alternatively draw a team from each pot. The drawing procedure for the 26 teams in the second stage was to draw out the pots beginning with Pot 1. One team from each pot would be placed, in the order of being drawn, into one of eight groups from 1 to 8. When drawing from Pot 3, if a team had been placed in a group where a team from the same football association was already placed, they were moved to the subsequent group until they were no longer in a group with a team from the same association. However, a first stage winner may be drawn with a team from the same association in the second stage.
For the first time, the seeded teams for the second stage were changed. Up until 2010, the 8 seeded teams included the reigning champion, and clubs from the football associations of Argentina and Brazil. For 2011, the seeded teams consisted of berths 1 from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela, and berths 2 from Argentina and Brazil. The reigning champion–Internacional–was berth 1 for Brazil. For 2012, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay would all have their berth 1 teams be seeded teams instead of the berth 1 teams from Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela.
Prior to the draw, it was announced that Caracas would be one of the eight seeded teams. During the draw, however, Deportivo Táchira was accidentally drawn as the seeded team for Group 4 and Caracas was drawn into Group 5 as a non-seeded team. After the ceremony, CONMEBOL recognized their error and transferred Caracas over to Group 4 and Deportivo Táchira over to Group 5.
The last four stages of the tournament (Round of 16, Quarterfinals, Semifinals, and Finals), played in home-and-away two-legged format, form a single-elimination tournament, contested by the sixteen teams which advance from the Second Stage. In each tie, the team with the higher seed will play at home in the second leg.
The 16 qualified teams are seeded in the knockout stages according to their results in the second stage, with the group winners seeded 1–8, and the group runners-up seeded 9–16. The teams were ranked by: 1. Points (Pts); 2. Goal difference (GD); 3. Goals scored (GF); 4. Away goals (AG); 5. Drawing of lots.
The Finals were played over two legs, with the higher-seeded team playing the second leg at home. If the teams were tied on points and goal difference at the end of regulation in the second leg, the away goals rule would not be applied and 30 minutes of extra time would be played. If still tied after extra time, the title would be decided by penalty shootout.