The road to 2018 FIFA World Cup™ will be set out for five of the six confederations on Saturday 25 July when the Preliminary Draw takes place at the Konstantin Palace in St. Petersburg. All draw procedures are subject to approval by the FIFA Organising Committee for the FIFA World Cup at its meeting on 24 July 2015 in St. Petersburg.
At 18.00 local time (17.00 CET), the Draw Show will begin and the eyes of the footballing world will focus on Russia and the fates of the teams hoping to qualify for the finals in just under three years’ time. The only confederation not affected by the event is the Asian confederation, as their respective qualifying campaigns are already underway.
FIFA.com takes you through the event, which will be conducted by FIFA’s Secretary-General Jérôme Valcke.
The first procedure to take place at the Palace is a short but important one. As the Asian, North, Central America and Caribbean, Oceanian and South American Zones all have a place open to them via a two legged play-off, a draw will be made to see which confederations are paired together. Then it’s the turn of the respective confederations to take centre stage.
With Zimbabwe having been expelled from the preliminary competition by the FIFA Disciplinary Committee, Africa sees 53 of its 54 member associations involved in the Preliminary Draw. For Round One, the 26 lowest-ranked participating associations from the region will contest Round One. Those teams will be allocated to two pots of 13 teams based on the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking of July 2015; the 13 highest ranked teams and the 13 lowest ranked teams. They will then be drawn against each other to play over two legs on a home and away basis between 5 and 13 October 2015. The winners of those matches advance to Round Two, where they will join the remaining 27 highest-ranked teams from the region and face off in another two-legged play off, home and away. The winners of these games then move into Africa’s final qualification round where five groups of four teams will meet both home and away. The winner of each group will qualify for Russia 2018.
52 of Europe’s 53 teams will be involved in the Preliminary Draw, with the only exception being Russia who qualify automatically as hosts. They will be put into seven groups of six teams and two groups of five teams according to the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking of July 2015, with each team playing each other home and away between 4 September 2016 and 10 October 2017. It should also be noted that UEFA have requested that England, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands must be drawn into a group containing six teams.
As an integral part of the European Qualifiers concept, UEFA will make arrangements for the teams drawn into the two groups of five teams to organise centralised friendly matches for the ten teams concerned as well as for Russia (in principle, with Group I). UEFA will announce the dates and kick-off times of these friendlies in due course after the Preliminary Draw.
The nine group winners will qualify for Russia 2018, while the eight best group-runners up will take part in a play-off in November 2017.
North, Central America and the Caribbean
The ten Round Two winners (Canada, El Salvador, Guatemala, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Aruba, Nicaragua and Curacao) join Jamaica and Haiti in Round Three. At the Preliminary Draw, the teams will be divided into two pots according to the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking of July 2015 and paired against each other. These two-legged encounters will take place between 31 August and 8 September 2015.
The winners of these games will join Costa Rica, Mexico, USA, Honduras, Panama and Trinidad and Tobago in Round Four. The 12 teams will be drawn into three groups of four teams with the make-up of these groups, scheduled to be played between 7 November 2015 and 6 September 2016, determined by a draw at the Konstantin Palace. The winners and runners-up for these three groups advance into Round Five; for which the draw date, location and procedure will be announced in due course.
In Oceania, American Samoa, Cook Islands, Samoa and Tonga will contest Round One due to Ranking and sporting reasons. A tournament involving the teams and based on a league system will be played between 31 August and 4 September 2015 in Tonga. The winner of this tournament advances to Round Two with the seven remaining Oceanian nations. These eight teams will be drawn into two groups of four teams playing in a round robin in a central venue to be determined. The matches are foreseen to be played in the period of 28 May 2016 to 12 June 2016. The group winners, runners-up and third placed teams from both groups will advance to Round Three.
Although the draw date, location and procedure for Round Three is still to be determined, the six teams who qualify will be placed into two groups of three and will play each other home and away. The winners of these two groups will meet each other in a two-legged match with the winner advancing to the intercontinental play-off.
The South American Zone will consist of ten teams competing for 4.5 places from a single group. The teams will be placed in one group and will play each other on a home and away basis between October 2015 and October 2017, with the Match Schedule agreed in St. Petersburg.
To ensure that no team has to play both Argentina and Brazil on any double matchday, these teams have been seeded and automatically positioned as Team 4 and Team 5 respectively.
The top four teams qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, while the fifth-placed team advances to an intercontinental play-off.
FIFA.com will be providing extensive coverage of the preliminary draw in St. Petersburg. As well as a Live Draw Application and the popular FanChat, which allows fans from around the world to share their opinions, the official website for Russia 2018 will be offering exclusive interviews with the stars present, as well as colourful reports from in and around St. Petersburg.
Please note: The draw procedures for the Preliminary Draw for the 2018 FIFA World Cup™ are subject to approval by the FIFA Organising Committee for the FIFA World Cup at a meeting scheduled for 24 July 2015 in St. Petersburg.