Football's world governing body, FIFA, has decided allocations for berths at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil will be exactly as they were for last year's tournament in South Africa and 2006 in Germany.
However, an open draw will decide the playoff round matches instead of prearranged pairings. That means the playoff team from the North, Central America and Caribbean (CONCACAF) region won't necessarily have to play a South American team. It could get an opponent from Asia or Oceania, the other zones with a team in the playoff draw.
Africa gets five places and Europe keeps its 13, while CONCACAF gets three automatic places and Asia gets four.
The only difference in the spread for the 32 World Cup finalists in 2014 is that South America could have six representatives if its playoff team is successful, since it retains four automatic berths and Brazil qualifies as host.
CONCACAF had been seeking a fourth automatic qualifier, but its bid was rejected.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter told journalists "CONCACAF was not so happy but finally they have to admit that the huge majority of the executive committee wanted to maintain the principle that has prevailed in the past."
For last year's World Cup qualifying, Uruguay eliminated Costa Rica in a playoff and New Zealand eliminated Bahrain.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.