The award has been dominated by Messi and Ronaldo since 2008, each scoring five awards, but with Modric's stellar season seeing him sweep the recent prizes, he is threatening to break up the duopoly.
De Bruyne was nominated for helping City win the Premier League and Belgium reach the World Cup semi-finals.
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.
Federation Internationale de Football Association best player of the year Luka Modric remains on track for a second major award after he was named Monday among 30 nominees for the Ballon d'Or alongside the likes of ex-Real Madrid teammate Cristiano Ronaldo, Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Liverpool's Mohamed Salah.
Antoine Griezmann, a World Cup victor with France and Europa League champion at Atletico Madrid, is nominated alongside global teammate and Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kante.
England only have one representative on the list in Harry Kane while Gareth Bale is also among the nominees.
Barcelona, on the other hand, have just three candidates, Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Ivan Rakitic.
Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho says 'many reasons' for poor form
We only ask because it's all getting a bit tedious now. " No offence to United fans ". United are going through a tough time at the moment.
The victor will be announced in Paris on 3 December with a women's victor awarded for the first time.
But a combination of apparent voter fatigue, Croatia's fairytale run, and recent rape allegations against the Portuguese star have lessened his chances with the bookies, with Modric, who captured the rival FIFA Best Player award last month, now considered the odds-on favorite.
Kylian Mbappe, who hit four goals in 13 minutes on Sunday in the rout over Lyon, remains in the hunt for the award after ending his season with a World Cup winners' medal with France.
For the first time ever, France Football is giving out a women's Ballon d'Or, with Germany's Dzsenifer Marozsan and Brazilian Marta among the top names in the running.
In total 30 nominees will be announced, with the ceremony scheduled for 3 December.