A total of 21 teams entered the qualification tournament, which decided four of the eight participating teams in the final tournament held in Jordan. This tournament also served as the first stage of Asian qualification for the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup, with the top five teams of the final tournament qualifying for the World Cup.
Of the 47 AFC member associations, a total of 24 teams entered the competition, with Japan, Australia, and China PR automatically qualified for the final tournament by their position as the top three teams of the 2014 AFC Women's Asian Cup and thus did not participate in the qualifying competition. Jordan also automatically qualified for the final tournament as hosts, but decided to also participate in the qualifying competition.
The draw was held on 21 January 2017, 15:00 AST (UTC+2), at the Grand Hyatt in Amman, Jordan. The 21 teams were drawn into one group of six teams and three groups of five teams.
In each group, teams played each other once at a centralised venue. The four group winners qualified for the final tournament. If Jordan won their group, the runner-up of their group also qualified for the final tournament.
Teams were ranked according to points (3 points for a win, 1 point for a draw, 0 points for a loss), and if tied on points, the following tiebreaking criteria were applied, in the order given, to determine the rankings (Regulations Article 11.5):
Goals scored in head-to-head matches among tied teams;
If more than two teams are tied, and after applying all head-to-head criteria above, a subset of teams are still tied, all head-to-head criteria above are reapplied exclusively to this subset of teams;
Goal difference in all group matches;
Goals scored in all group matches;
Penalty shoot-out if only two teams are tied and they met in the last round of the group;
Disciplinary points (yellow card = 1 point, red card as a result of two yellow cards = 3 points, direct red card = 3 points, yellow card followed by direct red card = 4 points);