The victor of the prestigious Ballon d'Or organised by France Football magazine will be announced on December 3.
Ronaldo, now facing allegations of rape dating back to 2009 that he strenuously denies, has already won the Ballon d'Or five times and is the current holder of the award.
During the turn of the decade FIFA and Ballon d'Or merged together and was presented as one prestigious award but that association came to an end in 2016.
Ronaldo, now at Juventus, won the Champions League for the third season in a row with Madrid, while De Bruyne inspired Manchester City's Premier League and EFL Cup double before a strong World Cup showing.
Modric, coming off a year which saw him win the Champions League with Real Madrid and lead Croatia to the World Cup final, is seen as a strong possibility to break the hold Messi and Ronaldo have on the award.
Liverpool's Brazilian forward Roberto Firmino and Uruguay's rugged defender Diego Godin of Atletico Madrid also got the nod.
Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker has been included in the list alongside Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero.
Also making the cut are Juve's Mario Mandzukic and Liverpool's Sadio Mane, while Barcelona are also represented by Croat defender Ivan Rakitic.
France internationals Amandine Henry, Amel Majri and Wendie Renard are joined on the list by Germany's Dzsenifer Marozsan, England's Lucy Bronze, Ada Hegerberg of Norway and Japan defender Saki Kumagai.
Kylian Mbappe is third-favourite after winning the World Cup with France at the age of 19, with 6-1 odds.
The Kopa Award will be voted upon by the 33 surviving winners of the Ballon d'Or, among them Cristiano Ronaldo, Leo Messi, Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Luis Figo and George Weah.