Ahead of tonight’s draw in Kuala Lumpur, here’s all you need to know about the upcoming joint qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup and 2019 Asian Cup.
How many spots in each competition are up for contention?
With FIFA set to announce allocations for the 2018 World Cup in May, the AFC is expected to retain at least four full spots and may also participate in inter-continental playoffs as they have in previous World Cup cycles.
The 2019 Asian Cup will feature 24 teams, expanded from 16 teams in the 2015 edition. Unlike previous tournaments, only hosts UAE will be given an automatic berth, leaving 23 slots available.
Who will participate in this cycle of qualifying?
The first group stage, which is the second overall round of qualifying, will be contested by 40 AFC members. These include six teams who won their two-legged series in the first round playoff.
The following pots were determined by each country’s FIFA ranking as of April 9, 2015:
Pot 1: Iran, Japan, South Korea, Australia, UAE, Uzbekistan, China, Iraq
Pot 2: Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Jordan, Bahrain, Vietnam, Syria, Kuwait
Pot 3: Afghanistan, Philippines, Palestine, Maldives, Thailand, Tajikistan, Lebanon, India
Pot 4: Timor-Leste, Kyrgyzstan, DPRK, Myanmar, Indonesia, Turkmenistan, Singapore, Bhutan
Pot 5: Malaysia, Bangladesh, Hong Kong, Yemen, Guam, Laos, Cambodia, Chinese Taipei
Can countries from the same subregion be drawn together?
Yes; there are no restrictions on potential opponents.
Who will advance from the group stage?
The eight group stage winners, as well as the top four second place teams, will advance to the third round of World Cup qualifying.
The remaining 28 teams will participate in continued qualifying for the 2019 Asian Cup, with 11 or 12 spots available depending on where the UAE finish in this group stage.
When does this qualifying stage begin and end?
The first matches of the group stage will take place on June 11, with the 10th and final matchday scheduled for March 29, 2016.
Where can I watch the draw?
A stream of the draw will be available to residents of some countries through the AFC’s Official YouTube Channel beginning at 17:00 Malaysia Time (UTC+8).