Soccer may be the global game but as US policy seems increasingly focused on putting ‘America first,’ it may be losing a chance to host the sport’s biggest event. In an interview with the New York Times, UEFA President, and FIFA Vice President, Aleksander Ceferin said that travel restrictions would be weighed against the US in a bid to host the World Cup in 2026.
After being passed over for the 2022 World Cup in favor of Qatar, the US has positioned itself as a strong contender to hold the tournament. In addition to having the infrastructure already in place to host, Sunil Gulati’s work to get Gianni Infantino elected FIFA President last year could only help a US bid.
All of that may be in doubt due to travel restrictions according to Caferin who discussed the issue with the New York Times.
While the travel ban was struck down by the courts, the Trump administration says it is planning on issuing a new one. In the meantime, there have been reports of travelers being discriminated against or denied entry to the US due to their religion. Muslim travelers have also reported increased scrutiny from customs agents when going through immigration control in the US. The former Prime Minister of Norway was even detained and questioned about a trip he took to Iran to give a speech at a human rights conference.
US Soccer did not comment to the New York Times about Caferin’s comments, but USSF President Sunil Gulati did discuss the ban with Grant Wahl earlier this month. In the interview, Gulati said that the ban “doesn’t represent what I believe is the best of us. My guess is some years from now a lot of people will look back at this and say we shouldn’t have done that.” Speaking before appeals courts upheld a decision to halt the ban, Gulati said, “hopefully the executive order will either be modified or we’ve talked about a 90-day period and we’ll get back if not sooner to the values we have.”
The timeline on getting back to the values that Gulati mentions will also be an issue for a US bid to host the World Cup. President Trump is up for re-election in 2020 and bids to host the tournament are due in 2018 with FIFA set to announce the host country the same year as the next US presidential election. With the Trump administration promising to re-introduce travel restrictions, USSF may not have time to assuage FIFA voters’ concerns about how people hoping to attend, report on, or play in the World Cup would be treated.