The honour, now separate from FIFA's own Best player of the year award, is bestowed annually by France Football magazine.
Specialist magazine France Football, which has awarded the prize since 1956, announced the 30 nominees for the calendar year trophy, among whom a victor will be chosen by a group of respected football journalists from around the world.
Every Ballon d'Or since 2008 has been won by either Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi and the pair are both among the favourites again this year.
Ronaldo, now facing allegations of rape dating back to 2009 that he strenuously denies, has already won the Ballon d'Orfive times and is the current holder of the award.
De Bruyne was nominated for helping his club win the Premier League and his country reach the World Cup semi-finals.
Manchester City forward Sergio Aguero is nominated as is another prolific South American striker, Edinson Cavani of Uruguay and Paris Saint-Germain.
The Tottenham striker captained England to their first World Cup semi-final in 28 years in Russian Federation this summer.