The Preliminary Draw for the 2018 FIFA World Cup™ will take place on Saturday 25 July at the Konstantin Palace in St. Petersburg.
At 17:00, 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.
52 of Europe’s 54 teams will be involved in the Preliminary Draw, with the only exceptions being Russia who qualify automatically as hosts and Gibraltar who are not yet members of FIFA.
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.
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.
The 52 entrants will be drawn into seven groups of six teams and two of five.
The nine group winners advance directly to the final tournament while the eight runners-up with the best record against the teams first, third, fourth and fifth in their groups proceed to play-offs to decide the remaining four European berths.
Six seeding pots will be formed as per the FIFA world rankings for July. All groups will contain one team from each of the top five seeding pots. Each of the seven sides in the sixth pot will be allocated to a six-team group.
The six pots are made up as follows:
Pot 1: Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, England, Wales, Spain, Croatia
Pot 2: Slovakia, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Czech Republic, France, Iceland, Denmark, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Pot 3: Ukraine, Scotland, Poland, Hungary, Sweden, Albania, Northern Ireland, Serbia, Greece
Pot 4: Turkey, Slovenia, Israel, Republic of Ireland, Norway, Bulgaria, Faroe Islands, Montenegro, Estonia
Pot 5: Cyprus, Latvia, Armenia, Finland, Belarus, FYR Macedonia, Azerbaijan, Lithuania, Moldova
Pot 6: Kazakhstan, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Georgia, Malta, San Marino, Andorra
Due to the centralisation of media rights for European Qualifiers, England, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands will all be drawn into six-team groups. They may be placed in the same group if they are in different seeding pots. On the other hand, due to the political situation between the countries, and based on the relevant decisions taken by the UEFA Executive Committee, Azerbaijan and Armenia cannot be drawn together.
The event will be conducted by FIFA’s Secretary-General Jérôme Valcke.
The fixture list will be confirmed on Sunday 26 July.
Matchday 1: 4–6 September 2016
Matchday 2: 6–8 October 2016
Matchday 3: 9–11 October 2016
Matchday 4: 11–13 November 2016
Matchday 5: 24–26 March 2017
Matchday 6: 9–11 June 2017
Matchday 7: 31 August–2 September 2017
Matchday 8: 3–5 September 2017
Matchday 9: 5–7 October 2017
Matchday 10: 8–10 October 2017
Play-off first leg: 9–11 November 2017
Play-off second leg: 12–14 November 2017
Final tournament (Russia): 14 June–15 July 2018