The qualifying process for the 2018 World Cup, which began on March 12, 2015, is reaching its climax.
In all, 31 places are up for grabs and so far, three nations have booked their place to join hosts Russia in next year’s tournament.
Qualified nations: Russia (hosts), Brazil, Iran, Japan.
EUROPE (UEFA; 13 PLACES)
Qualifying for 2018 sees seven groups of six nations and two groups of five.
Russia qualify as hosts. Group winners qualify automatically, with the eight best runners-up facing a two-legged playoff. Gibraltar and Kosovo were late additions after being accepted as full FIFA members.
The qualifiers began in September 2016 and run through to November 2017.
GROUP A: Netherlands, France, Sweden, Bulgaria, Belarus, Luxembourg
GROUP B: Portugal, Switzerland, Hungary, Faroe Islands, Latvia, Andorra
GROUP C: Germany, Czech Republic, Northern Ireland, Norway, Azerbaijan, San Marino
GROUP D: Wales, Austria, Serbia, Republic of Ireland, Moldova, Georgia
GROUP E: Romania, Denmark, Poland, Montenegro, Armenia, Kazakhstan
GROUP F: England, Slovakia, Scotland, Slovenia, Lithuania, Malta
GROUP G: Spain, Italy, Albania, Israel, Macedonia, Liechtenstein
GROUP H: Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Greece, Estonia, Cyprus, Gibraltar
GROUP I: Croatia, Iceland, Ukraine, Turkey, Finland, Kosovo
SOUTH AMERICA (CONMEBOL 4.5 PLACES)
As in recent qualifying competitions, all teams play each other home and away. The top four nations will qualify directly to the finals. The fifth-placed team will take the 0.5 place and play an intercontinental playoff against the winner of the Oceania region. Brazil have already guaranteed their place in Russia and clinched top spot in the CONMEBOL table.
The qualifiers began in October 2015 and run through to October 2017.
NORTH AMERICA, CENTRAL AMERICA, CARIBBEAN (CONCACAF; 3.5 PLACES)
Round One: The 14 lowest ranked nations played two-legged ties. Winners: Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Curacao, Dominica, Nicaragua, St Kitts & Nevis
Round Two: The seven winners from the first round and the next 13 lowest ranked nations played two-legged ties. Winners: Antigua & Barbuda, Aruba (Barbados fielded ineligible player), Belize, Canada, Curacao, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Nicaragua, St Vincent & the Grenadines
Round Three: The 10 winners from the second round join Jamaica and Haiti — to make 12 teams playing two-legged ties. Winners: Canada, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Jamaica, St Vincent & the Grenadines
Round Four: The six winners from the third round join Costa Rica, Mexico, United States, Honduras, Panama and Trinidad & Tobago. Drawn into three groups of four nations playing home and away. Top two nations advance.
Qualifiers for next stage: Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico, Trinidad & Tobago, Honduras and United States
Round Five (final round): The six winners from the fourth round form one group of six teams. Top three teams qualify with the fourth placed team in an intercontinental playoff (0.5 place) against a team from Asia. Mexico’s win against Panama on Sept. 1, 2017, guaranteed El Tri a spot in the World Cup, the team’s 16th overall and seventh-straight appearance in the tournament.
The final round began in November 2016 and runs until October 2017.
AFRICA (CAF; 5 PLACES)
Round One: The 26 lowest ranked nations played two-legged ties, played in October 2015. Winners: Botswana, Burundi, Chad, Comoros, Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Mauritania, Namibia, Niger, Swaziland, Tanzania
Round Two: The 13 winners from the first round and the remaining top 27 African nations to make 40 teams playing two-legged ties. Winners: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Congo, DR Congo, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Libya, Mali, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia.
Round Three (final round): The 20 winners from the second round were drawn into five groups of four nations playing home and away. Group winners qualify for the finals.
The final round began in October 2016 and runs until November 2017.
Group A: Congo DR, Guinea, Libya, Tunisia
Group B: Algeria, Cameroon, Nigeria, Zambia
Group C: Ivory Coast, Gabon, Mali, Morocco
Group D: Burkina Faso, Cape Verde Islands, Senegal, South Africa
Group E: Congo, Egypt, Ghana, Uganda
ASIA (AFC; 4.5 PLACES)
This follows the same format as for 2014.
Round One: The 12 lowest ranked nations played two-legged ties. Winners: Bhutan, Cambodia, Chinese Taipei, India, Timor-Leste, Yemen,.
Round Two: The six winners from the first round join the other 34 Asian nations, drawn into eight groups of five teams — also played as qualifiers for the 2019 Asian Cup finals. Played June 2015 to March 2016. Eight group winners and four best runners-up advance. VIEW TABLES
Round Three (final group round): The remaining 12 nations are drawn into two groups of six teams. Played September 2016 to September 2017. Group winners and runners-up qualify for the World Cup. Iran became the first team to qualify from Asia on June 12; Japan followed suit on Aug. 31.
Round Four: The teams finishing third in round three will play a two-legged playoff. The winner (0.5 place) will then advance to the inter-confederation playoff against a team from CONCACAF.
OCEANIA (OFC; 0.5 PLACES)
The 2015 OFC Nations Cup doubled as World Cup qualifying.
Round One: American Samoa, Cook Islands, Samoa, and Tonga played a league tournament in August-September 2015. The winner of the tournament, Samoa, advanced to Round Two.
Round Two: Samoa joined the other seven OFC nations in the group stage — this is also part of the OFC Nations Cup. There were two groups of four teams, with the top three going through. Played between May and June 2016.
New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Tahiti, Fiji, New Zealand and Solomon Islands advanced to round three.
Round Three: Two groups of three teams playing on a home and away basis. Round to begin in November 2016 and finish in June 2017. Group winners then playoff to advance to an intercontinental tie (0.5 place) against the fifth-placed team from Conmebol.
New Zealand and Solomon Islands progressed to the intercontinental playoff, which will be played on Sept. 1 and 5.
INTER-CONFEDERATION PLAYOFFS (2 PLACES)
The final two qualification spots will be decided in November over two-legged ties.
CONCACAF 4th place vs. AFC 5th place
OFC playoff winner vs. CONMEBOL 5th place
Follow @ESPNFC on Twitter to keep up with the latest football updates.