If the United States keeps the travel ban pushed by Donald Trump in place, the country can likely rule out a bid for the 2026 FIFA World Cup — even though the CONCACAF region in which the United States and Mexico are the dominant powers is a frontrunner to host the world’s most popular sporting tournament in nine years.
Trump has twice attempted to put the travel ban in place using presidential executive orders. In his first attempt, which in January banned travelers from seven Muslim-dominated Middle Eastern countries, federal courts stepped in and halted the ban, which had caused chaos at airports and other entry points for legitimate travelers to the United States.
The courts ruled that the ban targeted members of the Muslim religion and was, therefore, unconstitutional under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which prohibits any “law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
Trump issued a revised executive order in March, narrowing the travel ban to six Muslim-dominated countries. But a federal court in Hawaii again ruled the ban unconstitutional, reiterating that it discriminated on the basis of religion. The court ordered that the ban must not be implemented and gave no date for when Trump would be able to enforce the ban.
But if Trump figures out a way to put the travel ban in place despite the court rulings, any attempt by the United States to secure the 2026 FIFA World Cup would be at serious risk. The ban, which was halted by the Hawaii court, would have prohibited travelers from Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Syria, and Libya from entering the United States for at least 90 days, starting on March 16.
“In the world there are certainly many countries with travel bans, visa requirements and so on and so forth,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino said earlier this month. “What is obvious is that when it comes to the World Cup, like the Olympic Games, any team — including the supporters and officials of that team who have qualified — need to have access to the country. Otherwise there is no World Cup.”
CONCACAF has reportedly been planning a combined bid that would spread hosting the 2026 FIFA World Cup among the three countries of the North American continent — Mexico, Canada, and the United States.
With Russia hosting the 2018 World Cup and Qatar having won the bid for the 2022 FIFA event, both Europe and Asia are eliminated from contention to host the 2026 tournament. Brazil hosted the 2014 Cup, leaving North America, covered by the CONCACAF region, as the frontrunner for the 2026 Cup.
“If players cannot come because of political decisions, or populist decisions, then the World Cup cannot be played there,” Aleksander Čeferin, president of the European governing body for the sport, UEFA. “It is the World Cup. They should be able to attend the event, whatever their nationality is. But let’s hope that it does not happen.”
The 2026 FIFA World Cup will be the largest tournament in the history of the event, which was first contested in 1930. Only 13 teams took part in the first World Cup, which was hosted by Uruguay.
But the 2026 FIFA World Cup will feature 48 nations sending teams. On Thursday, FIFA announced how those slots would be allocated.
Europe will dominate the competition with 16 allocated slots, with Africa next, getting nine slots.
Asian teams will occupy eight slots in the 2026 FIFA World Cup, while CONCACAF — North America, Centra America and the Caribbean — receives six slots, CONMEBOL, representing South America, takes six slots, and the Oceania region will occupy a single slot.
The final two places in the 48-team 2026 FIFA World Cup will be decided in a six-team playoff round preceding the final tournament, according to FIFA.
[Featured Image By Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images]