In addition to the qualification quest, approximately €6.7 million (euro) in ERC meritocracy payments will be distributed to the countries of clubs which progress to the Heineken Cup knockout stage, and which reach the Amlin Challenge Cup final.
Since the 2009/10 season, both the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup winners qualify automatically for the following season's Heineken Cup and each winner earns an extra Heineken Cup place for their countries - over and above the guaranteed allocations of six clubs for France and England, three for Ireland and Wales and two for Scotland and Italy.
If clubs from the same country win both tournaments, one additional place is earned for that nation with the 24th and final Heineken Cup spot determined by the ERC European rankings.
With the incentive of a third successive season in the Heineken Cup, Connacht will be supporting both Munster Rugby, who take on in-form ASM Clermont Auvergne in a Heineken Cup semi-final in Montpellier on Saturday, and Leinster Rugby, who clash with Biarritz Olympique in the Amlin Challenge Cup semi-final the same day.
Meanwhile, the Basque club could repeat their feat of last season and book a place in the 2013/14 Heineken Cup by winning the Amlin Challenge Cup which would increase the French representation in the tournament to seven.
Should Clermont and Toulon both reach the Heineken Cup final, a French winner would bring seven French clubs into next season's tournament with Perpignan in pole position to benefit based on their current seventh place in the Top 14. However, the Catalan club, who are up against Stade Francais Paris in Friday's Amlin Challenge Cup semi-final, could also guarantee themselves Heineken Cup rugby in 2013/14 by winning the Amlin Challenge Cup.
Bath fans will be getting behind Saracens who meet Toulon in a heavyweight Heineken Cup semi-final at Twickenham Stadium on Sunday. A Saracens triumph in next month's Dublin 2013 final would see Bath qualify for next season's tournament as the current seventh placed club in the Aviva Premiership.
To add to the intrigue, should French clubs wins both the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup finals, then London Wasps could make a return to the Heineken Cup next season as the highest-placed, non-qualified club in the ERC European rankings.
ERC European rankings as they stand
The success of French clubs, with three Heineken Cup quarter-finalists and two semi-finalists, has earned their country in the region of €2.25 million (euro) in meritocracy payments in addition to their share of the ERC's central distribution for 2012/13,
Ireland will receive approximately €1.35 million (euro) in addition to their share of central distribution from Ulster's quarter-final spot and Munster's progression to the semi-finals.
As it stands, England will earn an additional €1.8 million (euro) from three clubs in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals and Saracens' progression to the semi-final.
Each place in the Heineken Cup knockout stage will earn a club's country close to €450,000 (euro) with an estimated €6.3 million (euro) in meritocracy payments shared across the quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals of the top-tier tournament.
There is an additional meritocracy payment of €450,000 (euro) to be shared by the nations or nation of the finalists of the Amlin Challenge Cup.
2013/14 Heineken Cup qualification scenarios
• If Biarritz Olympique win their Amlin Challenge Cup semi-final, an all-French final will ensure a seventh Heineken Cup spot for France in 2013/14 including the Amlin Challenge Cup winner.
• If Leinster win their semi-final and the Amlin Challenge Cup final, they will earn an additional fourth Heineken Cup spot for Ireland ensuring Connacht's qualification.
• If Munster win the Heineken Cup, they will earn an additional fourth Heineken Cup spot for Ireland ensuring Connacht's qualification.
• If Leinster win the Amlin Challenge Cup and Munster win the Heineken Cup, Ireland will earn an additional fourth Heineken Cup ensuring Connacht's qualification. As Ireland can only have four clubs per season, the 24th Heineken Cup place will go to the highest-ranked club in the ERC European rankings which is not already qualified for the tournament. Based on the current rankings, Biarritz would earn the 24th place.
• If a French club wins the Heineken Cup, France will have seven clubs in next season's tournament.
• If Saracens win their Heineken Cup semi-final and the final, they will earn an additional seventh spot for England with Bath qualifying based on their current seventh place in the Aviva Premiership.
• If French clubs win both the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup finals, France will earn a seventh tournament place next season. As France can only have seven clubs per season, the 24th Heineken Cup place will go to the highest-ranked club in the ERC European rankings which is not already qualified for the tournament. Based on the current rankings, London Wasps would earn the 24th place.