A Comprehensive Look at the World Cup 2018 Qualifying Draw

There has been much speculated by us, as well as others, about what will happen at the 2018 World Cup Qualifying draw in St. Petersburg on July 25th. We’re going to give a top-to-bottom rundown of what will occur on that date, as well as what will occur before it. We will indicate where we are dealing in fact, and where we are indicating in conjecture where applicable.

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Please note: this is our preview from before the draw. We have posted an updated, comprehensive preview of the qualifiers for all 184 teams still alive.


AFC (4.5 Places)

The AFC historically likes to do things far before other confederations. This is in large part due to the fact that they hold their continental finals a mere 6 months after the conclusion of the World Cup. The AFC will be combining in part the qualification for the 2018 World Cup as well as the 2019 Asian Cup. As a result, this will permit the qualification process to last longer than in the past.

AFC Qualification will consist of four rounds. The first round will feature home-and-away ties to reduce the pool of eligible teams to 40. The first round will take place on March 12th and 17th with the draw to be held on February 10th, 2015.

AFC then drew teams for the 2nd round of qualification. here are the results of that draw:


CAF (5 Places)

Just as in the draw for the 2014 World Cup, CAF looks set to use the July 2015 FIFA Ranking as its deciding factor to determine Qualifying Pots. Zimbabwe has been expelled, and we’ll assume they stay expelled. Should all 53 teams enter, 26 teams will contest the preliminary round while the other 27 will advance directly to a subsequent round. The bottom 13 will play the next bottom 13 in home-and-away ties to determine the 40 teams that advance to the 2nd round. Should any teams withdraw, the top of the 26 preliminary round teams will progress directly to the subsequent rounds.

1st round: It appears to us that the lowest 26 teams will enter the 1st round in home-and-away legs.

2nd round: The 13 winners will join the top 27 teams for another series of home-and-away legs. The top 20 teams will be in Pot 1. The bottom 20 will be in Pot 2.

3rd round: The 20 winners from the 2nd round will contest the Group stage, where they will be broken into 5 groups of 4. The 5 winners will advance to the World Cup. It is still uncertain how this will be drawn.

Here are the FINAL POTS

Qualifying Pot 1 Qualifying Pot 2
Niger Tanzania
Ethiopia Gambia
Malawi Liberia
Sierra Leone Central African Republic
Namibia Chad
Kenya Mauritius
Botswana Seychelles
Madagascar Comoros
Mauritania Sao Tome e Principe
Burundi South Sudan
Lesotho Eritrea
Guinea-Bissau Somalia
Swaziland Djibouti


Pot 1 Pot 2
Algeria Togo
Côte d'Ivoire Morocco
Ghana Sudan
Tunisia Angola
Senegal Mozambique
Cameroon Benin
Congo Libya
Cape Verde Islands Qualifying Winner 1
Egypt Qualifying Winner 2
Nigeria Qualifying Winner 3
Guinea Qualifying Winner 4
Congo DR Qualifying Winner 5
Mali Qualifying Winner 6
Equatorial Guinea Qualifying Winner 7
Gabon Qualifying Winner 8
South Africa Qualifying Winner 9
Zambia Qualifying Winner 10
Burkina Faso Qualifying Winner 11
Uganda Qualifying Winner 12
Rwanda Qualifying Winner 13


CONCACAF (3.5 Places)

CONCACAF Qualifying


This image has been making the rounds on the internet. CONCACAF appears set to use the August 2014 FIFA Ranking to dictate its qualifying format. Here is the schedule:

First Round: March 2015

Second Round: June 2015

Third Round: Fall 2015

Group Stage: 2016

Hex: 2017

Since the schedule has already been determined, there will be two separate draws conducted. We believe that the first draw will strictly contain teams participating in the first two rounds. This draw will likely take place by the beginning of March 2015 at the latest. Update 1/9/15: We were correct that the draw will only be for the first two rounds. It will take place on January 15, 2015 in Miami.

The July 2015 draw will pull teams from Pots A and B and place them into groups. We also believe that teams in Pot C will not know their fate prior to the draw. While the match schedule above makes sense, we believe it is just for illustrative purposes to show where teams would end up.

In the draw for the 2014 World Cup, teams from Pot A and B were drawn along with Winner 1, Winner 2, etc. We believe that will be the case again, as something like Mexico and Panama will be in Group A with the winner from M18. M18 would be drawn at the draw in July 2015 as opposed to the rigid schedule outline in the graphic. We don’t believe that the matches M8 – M17 will actually be labeled as such prior to the July 2015 draw. The seedings, however, should not change at all.


Update 7/9/15: The 12 teams contesting Round 3 will be broken into 2 pots using the July 2015 FIFA Rankings. They are as follows:

Pot 1 Pot 2
Jamaica St. Vincent and Grenadines
Haiti Belize
El Salvador Aruba
Canada Nicaragua
Guatemala Curacao
Antigua and Barbuda Grenada

A team from Pot A and a team from Pot B will be placed into 3 separate groups as indicated in the image above. Additionally, each group will get 2 pairings of teams drawn into round 3. So an example could be something like: USA, Panama, El Salvador/Curacao winner, Guatemala/Belize winner.




CONMEBOL (4.5 Places)

As has been the case in the past, CONMEBOL will not have groups for their qualifying campaign. 4 teams will qualify directly for Russia, while the 5th place team will go into a playoff against a team from another confederation. The order of matches is to be drawn, but that’s just about it.


OFC (0.5 Places)

The OFC will send one member to the intercontinental playoffs. 11 nations will start, with American Samoa, Cook Islands, Samoa and Tonga contesting the first round. These are the “Polynesian countries”.

The winner will join the other 7 nations from OFC in the second round. The July 2015 draw in Russia will determine the two groups of 4. No word yet on how the 8 teams will be split into two pots. For the World Cup 2014 draw, teams were seeded based on the July 2011 FIFA Rankings. It is fair to assume that the July 2015 FIFA Rankings will be used for the 2018 draw. Should that occur, the pots will be:

Pot 1 Pot 2
New Zealand Vanuatu
New Caledonia Fiji
Tahiti Papua New Guinea
Solomon Islands Qualifying Winner


2 teams from Pot 1 and 2 from Pot 2 would be drawn to form groups of 4.


UEFA (13 Places)

Who you want to draw:

There is no indication that UEFA will do anything other than use the July 2015 FIFA Ranking to determine pots at the July 2015 draw.

Thankfully, WGF has you covered. Click here for a detailed breakdown: UEFA Pot Projections

Here are the FINAL pots for the 2018 World Cup Qualifying Draw. Interesting to note that UEFA has requested that Germany, Netherlands, England, Spain, France, and Italy be drawn into groups of 6 teams. What does this mean? For the other 5 Pot 1 teams not included in this list, the odds of drawing France or Italy are now 17% instead of 22%. That’s a huge bonus. Also, there’s now a 40% chance of being drawn into a group of 5 teams as opposed to the previous 22% chance. Not sure if that’s good or bad, but if you get drawn into a group of 5 teams, you avoid France and Italy. That’s pretty good.

Pot 1 Pot 2 Pot 3 Pot 4 Pot 5 Pot 6
Germany Slovakia Ukraine Turkey Cyprus Kazakhstan
Belgium Austria Scotland Slovenia Latvia Luxembourg
Netherlands Italy Poland Israel Armenia Liechtenstein
Portugal Switzerland Hungary Republic of Ireland Finland Georgia
Romania Czech Republic Sweden Norway Belarus Malta
England France Albania Bulgaria FYR Macedonia San Marino
Wales Iceland Northern Ireland Faroe Islands Azerbaijan Andorra
Spain Denmark Serbia Montenegro Lithuania
Croatia Bosnia-Herzegovina Greece Estonia Moldova


There should be 5 pots of 9 teams and 1 pot of 7. These will be broken into 7 groups of 6 and 2 groups of 5. As is customary with UEFA, the group winners will qualify directly. The 8 best 2nd place finishers will go to the playoffs. This will likely be the final draw conducted in St. Petersburg.


We look forward to keeping this page updated with the latest World Cup Qualifying draw news. Thanks for reading!

One thought on “A Comprehensive Look at the World Cup 2018 Qualifying Draw

  • April 8 at 10:11 am

    AFC does have a very good plan in place when it comes to qualifying and combining it with AFC Asian Cup. However, I do not believe in the 2 game legged series. Lower level countries deserve more games to build their team, experience, and chances to have a shot at the big game. In AFC case, the Asian cup qualifications for 2015 ran until summer time last year. So preliminary round for this qualification should have started right after the world cup in a group stage format with home and away ties. It feel so wrong for those 6 teams that lost have no tournament to compete for. That is really sad!
    Same goes for CONCACAF, these 2 leg ties should not have happen if they wanted to crunch things in due to time or so. WC 2015 qualification ended in November 2013. This qualification should have started for those lower level countries (Caribbean and parts of Central America) in group stage formats with home and away ties. These group stages should go through into the 3 round or break it down to less rounds until the Hex. The 2014 qualification was good minus the first round consisting 2 leg ties. After the 2nd round, teams like Panama, Guatemala, El Salvador, and all made noise against the high rank teams that had byes all into the last game of the group stages.
    Same thing goes for CAF, but this is very complicated as you may know, CAF makes things complicated and have their own way of ranking teams. I will explain my view in the AFCON draw.
    I wish OFC would have more matches for them to compete in. Their confederation should grow to. They have a lot of potential. Teams like Guam, Mariana Islands, Taiwan, and Timor-Leste, who always get crush at their prospective Sub-confederations and AFC, should considered moving to OFC to get more and better competition for themselves(for Guam, like you said on the other article, they position themselves well this time around and TImor go a good win to the next round). These are things FIFA should be improving. However, saying yes, lying yes, doing no. That is FIFA for you. The number one concern if this was to happen is cost for travel. Maybe Macau and Honk Kong should move to OFC because they never do anything either.