The qualification format has been for the 20 teams, which have entered the fray, into a pre-qualifying round and a group stage. The seedings are based on the 2010 AFC Challenge Cup.
For the pre-qualifying phase, the eight lowest ranked teams will play off on a home-and-away basis. The matches take place on 9 and 16 February 2011. The four winners advance to the group stage.
In the group stage, there are 16 teams (four groups of four teams each) playing a single round robin (league system). This includes the 12 highest ranked automatically qualified teams and the four qualifiers. The match days are 20-31 March 2011. The top two teams in each group go to the Finals.
Unlike previous editions, no team has been given direct entry into the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup Finals.
Defending champions DPR Korea, runners-up Turkmenistan and third-placed Tajikistan will now have to go through the qualifiers to punch their tickets to the Finals.
Number of teams