Trump gets involved in 2026 World Cup bid

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The vote on who will host the 2026 World Cup will take place in Russia on Wednesday and the joint-bid from the USA, Mexico and Canada is expected to edge Morocco to victory.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

But could President Donald Trump have a big part to play in a victory for the North American bid?

A report from the New York Times suggests that Trump has been involved in allaying fears from countries across the world regarding his hard-line approach on immigration. This comes after he previously seemed to threaten countries around the world if they didn’t vote for the North American bid over Morocco.

Below is the crux of the news from the NYT, as Trump has been helping to smooth over fears regarding visas and travel bans.

Since March, Mr. Trump has provided United States soccer officials with three letters addressed to Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA, soccer’s global governing body. Each letter, part of an extensive but largely unseen United States government effort to support the bid, contained increasingly specific guarantees that foreign teams, officials and even fans will face no restrictions on entering the U.S. for World Cup matches in 2026 if their countries qualify for the tournament. In effect, the letters assured officials voting on the event that Mr. Trump’s hard-line stance on visas would not apply to the World Cup.

The letters were reviewed by The New York Times; they have not previously been reported.

In the most recent letter, dated May 2, Mr. Trump cites the 1996 and 2002 Olympic Games and the 1994 World Cup as examples of major international events hosted by the United States, and he assures Mr. Infantino — and by extension FIFA voters — that “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.”

Of course, a second Trump term would end in 2025, more than a year before the event, a fact the United Bid officials also have pointed out to voters. That has not seemed to matter, soccer officials from the United States, Mexico and Canada said Monday. What has eased the minds of some voters, U.S. Soccer President Carlos Cordeiro said, is the mere existence of his letters — printed on crisp White House letterhead and marked with Mr. Trump’s distinctive, inch-high signature at the bottom in thick black pen strokes.

So, there you have it.

Even if Trump wins a second term as president, he will not be in office during the tournament in 2026, so how much this helps the North American bid remains to be seen.

The fact that the president of the USA is so involved in this bid suggests he realizes just how valuable this could be not only economically, but also in patching up relations between the U.S. and its neighbors to the north and south.