Jerome Valcke, the FIFA secretary general, said the October 17 rankings would be used instead of the rankings at the time of the draw in Brazil on December 6. England are ranked 17th but should Roy Hodgson's team qualify they are likely to join the European pot with other non-seeds.
Had FIFA used the December rankings, then wins for England in their two November games - possibly friendlies against Germany and Uruguay or World Cup qualifying play-offs - might have boosted their ranking.
Instead, England could find themselves in a group with at least one top-eight side or hosts Brazil, making the task of qualifying for the knock-out stages that much tougher.
England were seeded for the group phase of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, and finished second to the USA.
Valcke said it was fairer to use the October rankings as after that countries involved in the competitive play-offs would get more ranking points than those just playing friendlies.
Hodgson, meanwhile, is convinced he will take his side to the finals despite only leading Group H by a point from Ukraine and Montenegro, the visitors to Wembley on October 11 before Poland arrive four days later.
"There are always bridges to cross in your life and footballing career. When that bridge appears, you cross it, but I don't cross bridges before I come to them," he said. "As for the doomsday scenarios put before me, I won't have to confront them because I believe the team will do it."