U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s travel ban risks derailing America’s bid to host soccer’s World Cup.
The U.S., considered the favorite to stage sport’s most-watched event in 2026 after losing previous bids, is weighing a bid, either on its own or in a joint effort with Mexico and Canada. Trump’s updated policy, which limits entry for citizens of six Muslim majority countries, is incompatible with regulations for tournament hosts, according to Gianni Infantino, president of soccer’s governing body FIFA.
“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,” Infantino told reporters following a meeting with soccer leaders from around the globe held in London.
Representatives of the Somali federation were among those invited to the summit at a hotel near Heathrow airport. Under revised regulations unveiled this week they’d be barred from entering the U.S. Infantino pointed out the Los Angeles’s competition with Paris to host the 2024 Summer Olympics might also be affected by Trump’s policy.
“The requirements will be clear,” Infantino said of FIFA’s regulations for future hosts, which are likely to be completed later this year. “And then each country can make up their decision, whether they want to bid or not based on the requirements. Nothing to do with the U.S. or not, it’s general sporting criterion.”
Infantino’s comments mirror those of Aleksander Ceferin, the head of European soccer. The Slovenian told the New York Times recently that U.S. restrictions would “not help” the country bring the tournament back for the first time since 1994.
During the last round of bidding in 2010, Qatar secured hosting rights after the tiny, gas-rich emirate beat an American offer. Allegations of wrongdoing by voters — including some who were later charged in a separate corruption case by the U.S. — led FIFA to change the way World Cup hosts are selected.
The 2026 winner will be picked via a poll of the organization’s entire 211-nation membership, rather than just its executive board. Bids have to be submitted by December 2018, with the host to be decided in May 2020.
Trump’s original ban led to nationwide protests, and was blocked by court challenges. The latest edition — which also targets citizens of Iran, Yemen, Syria, Sudan and Yemen — is also facing legal challenges.
The 2026 World Cup will be the first to feature an enlarged 48-team format.
©2017 Bloomberg L.P.