54 full CAF member countries are eligible for participation.
51 teams enter the competition (Chad, Somalia and Eritrea do not enter).
Hosts Cameroon qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations directly as hosts.
The team also participates in the Africa Cup of Nations Qualifications too with its results also counting for the standings of its group.
Teams are ranked 1st-51st based on their performance in the last three Africa Cup of Nations and Africa Cup of Nations Qualifications and their performance in the Qualifying and Finals of the penultimate World Cup.
Teams, ranked 1st-45th enter the competition directly at the Group stage.
6 teams contest 3 places in the Group stage in a knockout format.
6 teams are drawn into 3 pairs.
Winners are decided over two legs.
Hosting is determined by the draw.
Tie-breakers for the knockout matches over two legs:
1. aggregate score from the two legs, 2. away goals, 3. extra time, 4. penalties.
Qualification for the Group stage:
the three Finals winners: qualify for the Group stage
3 teams from the Preliminary Round and 45 teams that enter the competition at this stage are drawn into 12 groups of 4 teams each (groups A-L).
Teams are distributed into 4 pots, based on their ranking as follows:
Pot 1: the 12 teams with best ranking;
Pot 2: the 12 teams with next best ranking;
Pot 3: the 12 teams with next best ranking;
Pot 4: the 12 teams with worst ranking and Gabon.
Each group is composed of 1 team from each pot.
Each team plays the others from its own group twice - home and away - for a total of 6 games each, over 6 game weeks.
3 points for a win, 1 point for a draw, 0 points for a loss.
1. points won; 2. points in head-to-head matches; 3. goal difference in hth matches; 4. away goals in hth matches; 5. total goal difference; 6. total goals scored; 7. total away goals scored; 8. draw.
Qualification for CAF competitions:
1 place of each group: qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations
the three best 2nd placed teams: qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations
* - if Cameroon wins its group, then the second placed team from that group isn't eligible for being one of the three best second placed teams.
Tie-breakers for determining the best 2nd placed teams:
1. points won; 2. total goal difference; 3. total goals scored; 4 draw.