Fifty-three African sides will have their route to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia mapped out for them this Saturday when the Preliminary Draw for the qualifiers is held at the Konstantin Palace in St. Petersburg.
With Zimbabwe expelled from the preliminary competition by the FIFA Disciplinary Committee, Africa sees 53 of its 54 member associations involved in the Preliminary Draw.
The 26 lowest-ranked participating associations from the region will be involved in Round One. These teams will be in two pots of 13 teams based on the FIFA World Rankings of July 2015.
The 13 highest ranked teams (Niger, Ethiopia, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Namibia, Kenya, Botswana, Madagascar, Mauritania, Burundi, Lesotho, Guinea-Bissau, Swaziland) and the 13 lowest ranked teams (Tanzania, Gambia, Liberia, Central African Republic, Chad, Mauritius, Seychelles, Comoros, Sao Tome and Principe, South Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia, Djibouti)
They will then be drawn against each other to play over two legs on a home and away basis between 5 and 13 October 2015.
The 13 winners of those matches advances to Round Two, where they will join the remaining 27 highest-ranked teams from the region and face off in another two-legged play off, home and away.
The 20 highest-ranked teams are Algeria, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Tunisia, Senegal, Cameroon, Congo, Cape Verde, Egypt, Nigeria, Guinea, DR Congo, Mali, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, South Africa, Zambia, Burkina Faso, Uganda and Rwanda.
These 20 highest-ranked teams will be placed in one pot and drawn against teams in a second pot, which will comprise the 13 winners from Round One and the remaining seven highest ranked teams: Togo, Morocco, Sudan, Angola, Mozambique, Benin and Libya.
Round Two will then be played from 9 to 17 November 2015.
The winners of these games then move into Africa’s final qualification round where five groups of four teams will meet both home and away. The winner of each group will qualify for Russia 2018.