It’s still three years until FIFA expects to name a host for the 2026 World Cup, but that didn’t stop soccer’s governing body from firing a preemptive strike at United States president Donald Trump, warning the United States that Trump’s proposed travel ban could cost the country the opportunity to host the world’s most-watched sporting event in nine years.
“It’s obvious when it comes to FIFA competitions as well, any team, including the supporters and officials of that team, who qualify for a World Cup need to have access to the country, otherwise there is no World Cup,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino said to ESPN. Infantino’s comments reflected those made on Feb. 27 by UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, who suggested then that the proposed ban would weigh negatively in consideration for hosting the 2026 World Cup.
Whether the travel ban is in effect or not, CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani said he expects the United States to be a contender for the event, whether on its own or as part of a joint bid with Canada or Mexico. The head of North America’s soccer governing body pointed out that 2026 is still nine years away, meaning that the policies of today have no guarantee of lasting until the 2026 World Cup.
“Leaders will come and go, policies will come and go,” Montagliani said. “And to be quite frank, every country has immigration policies, and every country has the right to have those immigration policies.”
Even if Trump’s travel ban is implemented, he himself would no longer be president by 2026 barring a change to the Constitution, even if he won a second term. However, there’s a small chance that the president and the soccer world could collide long before the 2026 World Cup is even awarded.
CONCACAF is allocated three guaranteed World Cup bids, with the fourth-place team given a chance at a bid in a two-leg playoff against the fifth-place team from Asia, a continent that includes Iran and Syria. With five qualifying matches left, both countries could still finish fifth in Asia, which could land the United States in the awkward situation of having to schedule a match to go to the World Cup against a country whose citizens are not allowed to travel to within its borders.
If the United States is excluded from the bidding in 2026, it’s not clear what effect that will have on where the event is held. So far, the only country to express interest in bidding besides the three North American nations is Colombia, and with Argentina and Uruguay likely to bid for the 2030 event to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the World Cup, Colombia’s bid is a long shot. Europe and Asia will be unable to bid and no country in Oceania has the facilities to host, leaving only Africa as realistic competition for the tournament.
Options include taking the event to either Mexico or Canada or having the two nations co-host without the United States. Should the United States miss out on the 2026 World Cup, it is not likely to get another opportunity for several years, as Europe will be able to bid again in 2030 and both China and Australia are likely to be in the running when Asia’s next turn comes, leaving the U.S. with a lot of competition in the future.
Readers, is this threat from FIFA fair? Do you expect the organization to follow through with it? Do you want the World Cup to come to the U.S.? Sound off in the comments below!
Commentary by Dan Angell
Photo Courtesy YouTube