2018 FIFA World Cup qualification
|Dates||March 2015 – November 2017|
|Teams||Maximum of 208 (from 6 confederations)|
The 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification decides 31 of the 32 teams which will play in the World Cup, with the hosts Russia qualifying automatically. All 209 FIFA member associations are eligible to enter the qualifying process.
The qualifying draw will take place at the Konstantinovsky Palace in Strelna, Saint Petersburg on 25 July 2015. Qualifying matches for AFC and CONCACAF will start in March 2015, prior to the qualifying draw.
at start of event
|Russia||Host||2 December 2010||11th||2014||Fourth place (1966)|
Summary of qualification
|Note: The number of teams participating in the main tournament is 32. The division over the continents, however, as of November 2014 has not been announced. The list below is based on the procedure of the 2010 and 2014 tournaments.|
|Confederation||Teams started||Teams that have secured qualification||Teams that can still qualify||Teams that have been eliminated||Remaining places in finals||Total places in finals||Qualifying start date||Qualifying end date|
|AFC||Max 46||0||46||0||4 or 5||4 or 5||16 March 2015||10 October 2017|
|CONCACAF||Max 35||0||35||0||3 or 4||3 or 4||23 March 2015|
|CONMEBOL||Max 10||0||10||0||4 or 5||4 or 5|
|OFC||Max 11||0||11||0||0 or 1||0 or 1||5 October 2015||15 November 2016|
The AFC Executive Committee meeting on 16 April 2014 approved the proposal to merge the preliminary qualification rounds of the FIFA World Cup and the AFC Asian Cup, which will be expanded to 24 teams starting in 2019:
- First round: The lowest ranked teams will play home-and-away over two legs to reduce the total number of teams to 40.
- Second round: The 40 teams will be divided into eight groups of five to play home-and-away round-robin matches, where the eight group winners and the four best group runners-up will advance to the third round of FIFA World Cup qualification as well as qualify for the AFC Asian Cup finals.
- Third round: The 12 teams (an increase from 10 for 2014) will be divided into two groups of six to play home-and-away round-robin matches. Dependent on the number of qualifiers from the AFC, the top two teams of each group will qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and the two third placed teams will advance to the fourth round.
- Fourth round: Dependent on the number of qualifiers from the AFC, the two third-placed teams in each group from the third round will play against each other home-and-away over two legs to determine which team will advance to the inter-confederation play-offs.
The next best 24 teams eliminated from World Cup qualification in the second round will be divided into six groups of four and compete for the remaining slots of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup (the third round of 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualification will be separate from the third round of 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification).
The draw for the first round will take place on 10 February 2015, with the second round draw schedule for 11 April 2015.
An amendment to the qualification process for this tournament has been suggested, which would see the first two rounds played at knockout rounds, with both the third round and the final round (referred to as 'The Hex') played as group stages. The first rounds would be played during the FIFA international dates of 23-31 March in 2015.
- First round: American Samoa, Cook Islands, Samoa, and Tonga will play a round-robin tournament at a single venue. The winner will advance to the second round.
- Second round: The first round winner will join the seven remaining teams (Fiji, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tahiti, and Vanuatu), and the eight teams will be drawn into two groups of four. Each group will be played on a round-robin home-and-away basis. The group winners and runners-up will advance to the third round.
- Third round: The four teams will play in a group on a round-robin home-and-away basis. The winner will qualify for the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia, and advance to the inter-confederation play-offs in November 2017 where they will play a team from another confederation for a place in the 2018 FIFA World Cup finals.
- "Organising Committee for the FIFA World Cup extends its responsibilities to cover 2018 and 2022". FIFA.com. 19 March 2013.
- "Konstantinovsky Palace to stage Preliminary Draw of the 2018 FIFA World Cup". FIFA.com. 10 October 2014.
- "Ethics: Executive Committee unanimously supports recommendation to publish report on 2018/2022 FIFA World Cup™ bidding process". FIFA.com. 19 December 2014.
- This is the 4th appearance of Russia at the FIFA World Cup. However FIFA considers Russia as the successor team of the Soviet Union.
- Russia's best result is group stage in 1994, 2002 and 2014. However FIFA considers Russia as the successor team of the Soviet Union.
- "ExCo approves expanded AFC Asian Cup finals". AFC. 16 April 2014.
- المنتخبات تتطلع على تحضيرات معسكر جولد كوست [Teams are looking at the preparations Camp Gold Coast] (in Arabic). United Arab Emirates Football Association. 12 December 2014. Retrieved 15 December 2014.
- "Concacaf estrenará formato de eliminatoria; sigue el Hexagonal" (in Spanish). ESPN Mexico. 2014-09-23. Retrieved 2014-12-03.
- "Canada begins 2018 World Cup qualification in June". Sportsnet. 2014-11-19. Retrieved 2014-12-03.
- "OFC Executive Committee decisions". Oceania Football Confederation. April 23, 2014.
- "OFC Executive Committee outcomes". Oceania Football Confederation. October 20, 2014.