FIFA says a seeding system will be in place for the World Cup playoffs in the European zone, ensuring the four highest-ranked qualifiers will be kept apart in the draw on Oct. 21.
World soccer's governing body was criticized four years ago when it announced after the qualifiers were known that there would be seedings for the playoffs.
England and Portugal are among the leading European teams who are in danger of missing out on the one automatic qualifying spot in their groups. France and Spain are in the same group, meaning one is likely to drop into the playoffs.
The eight best runners-up from the nine groups will qualify for the four two-legged playoffs.