The Asian Football Confederation was allocated four qualifying berths for the 2002 FIFA World Cup, and one place in a play-off, however South Korea and Japan, the co-hosts, qualified automatically, leaving 2.5 spots open for competition between 40 teams. Myanmar withdrew from the tournament after being placed in Group 2 but before any matches had been played, therefore reducing the group to 3 teams.
Asia's two remaining automatic qualifying berths were taken by Saudi Arabia and China. Iran failed to become a third Asian representative in the World Cup after losing their AFC/UEFA playoff against Republic of Ireland.
First Stage: The 40 teams were divided into 10 groups of 4 teams each. The teams played against each other twice, except in Group 2, where the teams played against each other once. The group winners would advance to the Final Round.
Second Stage: The 10 teams were divided into 2 groups of 5 teams. The teams played against each other on a home-and-away basis. The group winners would qualify. The runners-up would advance to the AFC Play-off.
Play-off: The 2 teams played against each other on a home-and-away basis. The winner would advance to the UEFA/AFC Intercontinental Play-off.