Now that we know the pots, this is as good a time as any to review how the process actually works. Even if you’ve watched FIFA World Cup draws before, the wrinkles in this year’s process ensure this one will be a little different, and for those obsessed with the details of these events, timing and order are everything.
We know there are 32 teams that need to end up in eight, four-team groups, and with the qualifiers divided into four pre-draw “pots,” it’s easy to see how we’re going to proceed. But particularly with one of those pots featuring nine teams, it’s worth reviewing the procedures that will be in place to make sure the draw ends up balanced.
You can check them out for yourself here, but we’ve taken the liberty of translating FIFA’s words so you’ll know how Friday’s going to go:
- 1. They’re going to solve that nine-team pot problem first. One ball will be pulled at random from Pot Four (the one with all of UEFA’s non-seeded qualifiers) and placed into Pot Two, which currently has only the seven African and South American entrants. Once done, the pots will be even (eight teams each).
- 2. The pots will be drawn sequentially, one through four, with team placed into groups sequentially, A through H.
- 3. Brazil will be the first team pulled out of Pot One. As hosts, they’ll go into Group A and play in the tournament’s opening game. The rest of the teams will be pulled out at random and placed in groups B through H.
- 4. Pot Two is drawn next, albeit with two caveats:
- If the European team that’s in this pot gets slotted with another UEFA qualifier, they’ll instead be bumped down to the next group. For example, if Portugal is pulled from Pot Four, dropped in Pot Two, and is then pulled out to be grouped with Spain, they’ll instead move down to the next non-European group, with the following draw from Pot Two filling the place in Spain’s group.
- Likewise … Pot Two’s South American teams can’t be drawn with CONMEBOL’s seeded qualifier, FIFA committed to spreading out a region’s teams as much as possible. With all non-UEFA confederations limited to one team per group, Chile and Ecuador can not be drawn with Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, or Uruguay. If that happens, they’ll be slotted in the next group instead, with the next ball that comes out of Pot Two set to fill the vacated spot. This guaranteed Chile and Ecuador will be grouped with two European teams.
- 5. Pot Three (CONCACAF and Asia) is drawn. No tricks here. If you’re looking for potential Groups of Pain, see if Japan, the United States, or (to a certain extent) Mexico get drawn with Chile and Ecuador.
- 6. Pot Four (the Europe group) is drawn, and because of the care taken to ensure Pot Two doesn’t bunch teams from the same region, each group will have (no fewer than) one or (at most) two European teams.