Fact box on 2010 preliminary draw
l 170 countries chase 31 places at the 2010 finals, with only hosts South Africa guaranteed a place at the tournament.
Holders Italy must qualify to defend their title.
l The 32 World Cup finals slots are divided into 13 for Europe, six for Africa (including the host nation), four each for Asia and South America and three for the Central and North American and Caribbean Zone (Concacaf).
The winners of the Oceania group play off against the fifth-placed Asian side for a further spot, while the fifth-placed finishers in South America play off for a berth against the fourth-placed team from the Concacaf.
l Europe has the biggest representation at the 2010 World Cup finals with 13 places.
l Europe's 53 entrants will be divided into nine groups. The winners all qualify for the World Cup, and the best eight runners-up play off for four more qualifying berths.
l Africa will have three rounds of qualification, the first of which is already completed.
The 48 remaining teams are divided into 12 groups for the second stage.
The group winners and eight best runners-up progress to the final group phase where the 20 teams are divided into five groups.
Only the group winners qualify for the World Cup finals.
l Asia has five stages of qualification, two of which have been completed and already seen 21 countries eliminated.
l Asia's remaining 20 teams are being divided into five groups. The top two advance to a fourth stage where they are split into two groups.
The two group winners and the two runners-up qualify for the World Cup.
The third-placed teams go into a play-off with each other and the winner then plays off with the Oceania winner for a World Cup berth.
l All Concacaf's 35 members have entered four stages of qualifying, the first two of which will be played on a knockout basis.
Twelve remaining sides will then be divided into three groups, with the top two in each advancing to a final super group, from which the first three qualify for the World Cup and the fourth-placed team goes into a play-off against the fifth-placed South American side.
l Oceania is already deep into its qualifying campaign with a group competition involving Fiji, New Caledonia, New Zealand and Vanuatu. The top two will meet in a two-legged final with the winner advancing to a play-off against Asia's fifth-placed finisher.
l The 10 South American countries began their super group in October.
The top four qualify for the World Cup finals and the fifth-placed team plays off with the fourth-placed team from the Concacaf region.
l The 2010 Fifa soccer World Cup qualifying competition will last more than 800 days and will be finalised in November 2009.