FIFA has confirmed that the seeding for the 2018 World Cup will be based on the October edition of its rankings.
This means hosts Russia, currently ranked 64th, and the world’s top seven teams will be in the first pot for the draw in the Kremlin on December 1, with the remaining 24 teams divided equally into three more pots, according to their ranking.
The September rankings were published on Thursday and England, should they seal their place in next year’s finals in their last two qualifying games, would be in the second pot, as they are currently ranked 15th.
The top seven seeds as of now are Germany, Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, Belgium, Poland and Switzerland.
Wales and Northern Ireland, who are both likely to need play-off wins to make the tournament, are 13th and 20th respectively, while Scotland, still in contention for a play-off, are 43rd. The Republic of Ireland, who have slipped behind Wales in group D, are 34th. As in previous World Cups, only one team from each of FIFA’s six regional confederations can appear in each of the eight four-team groups, apart from UEFA, which can have two teams in a group.
These details were decided in Zurich by FIFA’s competitions committee, which is chaired by UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, and it would appear to suggest the proposed changes to the ranking system will not take effect until after the draw.
Last week, FIFA said it would review its ranking system “after the completion of qualification for the 2018 FIFA World Cup” to see if any changes can be made “to improve the ranking”. This was a response to feedback that it is possible for teams to boost their rankings by avoiding friendlies, particularly friendlies they might lose, which is a clear disincentive to play good international opposition.
The last round of qualifying group-stage matches will finish on October 10, a few days before the next rankings should be released, but play-offs in Europe and elsewhere will continue into November.
In other decisions, the competitions committee also set the dates for next year’s Under-20 Women’s World Cup in France (August 5-24), U17 Women’s World Cup in Uruguay (November 13-December 1) and Club World Cup in United Arab Emirates (December 12-22).
Looking further ahead, the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France will take place from June 7 to July 7, and UEFA has been allocated four places in the men’s tournament at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and three places in the women’s event.
The committee also confirmed the World Cup qualifying match played between South Africa and Senegal in November last year must be replayed in the November international window.
South Africa won the original game 2-1 but earlier this month the Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld a life ban for the game’s referee, Ghanaian Joseph Lamptey, for match manipulation after he awarded South Africa a penalty for a nonexistent handball.