Donald Trump is attempting to put his influence behind a bid to have the USA host the 2026 FIFA World Cup soccer tournament, and at least one sports analyst thinks it will help, Yahoo Sports is reporting.
On Thursday (Moscow time), FIFA is expected to announce, at a press conference in Moscow, which nation – or group of nations – will be granted the rights to host the once-every-four-years tournament’s 2026 edition. The USA is part of a pan-North American bid, along with Mexico and Canada; the only other nation rumored to be in serious consideration is Morocco.
With Friends Like These
Perhaps not surprisingly, the president of the United States is trying to convince FIFA officials to award the rights to the pan-North American bid – after all, it’s not unusual for heads of state to try to advocate for their countries’ causes when it comes to international sporting events.
The problem, however, is two-fold.
First, Trump has, as Yahoo Sports writer Liz Roscher puts it, “stirred up significant anti-American sentiment around the world” via his words and actions. And indeed, in an April tweet, he even threatened political retribution against any nation that didn’t support the USA’s bid.
The U.S. has put together a STRONG bid w/ Canada & Mexico for the 2026 World Cup. It would be a shame if countries that we always support were to lobby against the U.S. bid. Why should we be supporting these countries when they don’t support us (including at the United Nations)?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 26, 2018
Second, there’s the very real issue of travel. Simply put, it’s all but inevitable that some athletes will be coming from countries covered under Trump’s travel bans and thus would, theoretically at least, not be allowed to enter the United States.
How does "World Cup in KC" sound? We're officially one step closer.— Sporting KC (@SportingKC) March 15, 2018
Kansas City is included as an official Candidate Host City for the 2026 FIFA World Cup bid. KC is ready to welcome the world! #Unity2026
Read ➡️ https://t.co/RK74navbAA pic.twitter.com/XgGc6Ibn6t
Letters To FIFA President Gianni Infantino
As it turns out, Trump seems to be aware of that potential problem. And it seems that he’s willing to bend a little.
The New York Times obtained three letters Trump sent to Infantino, and in those letters, Trump tried to assuage fears that any travel bans would interfere with athletes coming to the States to compete.
“I am confident that the United States would host the 2026 FIFA World Cup in a similarly open and festive manner, and that all eligible athletes, officials and fans from all countries around the world would be able to enter the United States without discrimination.”
Whether or not Trump’s attempts at smoothing things over will succeed remains to be seen.
What Would A 2026 FIFA World Cup Across North America Look Like?
According to ESPN, the U.S. would host 60 of the 80 matches, with Canada and Mexico each hosting 10. Potential host cities in the U.S. include Los Angeles, New York, Washington, and Kansas City, among others.
A decision on whether the 2026 FIFA World Cup hosting rights bid will be awarded to Morocco or to the pan-North American bid will be announced Thursday (likely late Wednesday Eastern Time).