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Travel Ban Could Kill USA’s Chances of Hosting 2026 World Cup

22 Mar, 2017

By: Michael Popke
FIFA President: All World Cup Travelers Must Have Access to Host Nation

When Gianni Infantino says he needs an open-door policy in countries that want to host the FIFA World Cup, well, he’s looking at you, Donald Trump.

The FIFA president has sent a clear message to nations interested in bidding for future editions of the World Cup: they must allow any team who qualifies and their supporters access to the country for the tournament.

According to an article in Inside The Games, Infantino’s warning came after the Trump administration issued an updated executive order banning immigration from six countries:  Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Libya.

Infantino isn't the only one with reservations. Aleksander Ceferin, president of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), also sent out a warning.

Considering the U.S. is widely considered the top contender for the 2026 tournament — either on its own or as part of a joint North American bid with Canada and Mexico — Ceferin’s recent comments to The New York Times gave the world soccer community pause.

“It will be part of the evaluation, and I am sure it will not help the United States to get the World Cup,” Ceferin said about the ban. “If players cannot come because of political decisions, or populist decisions, then the World Cup cannot be played there. It is true for the United States, but also for all the other countries that would like to organize a World Cup.

Though a federal court overturned the Trump administration’s initial 90-day ban on immigration and travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, he introduced a revised ban that dropped Iraq from the list of initially banned countries. The U.S. had previously been considered the favorite to stage the 2026 World Cup, either as a standalone host or as part of a joint effort with Canada and Mexico. However, Trump's move could prove detrimental to the country's chances of hosting the event, in which the number of teams involved will jump from 32 to 48.

Infantino, speaking after the conclusion of a FIFA Executive Football Summit, which was attended by representatives of 40 member associations, said world soccer governing body was in the process of preparing the rules for bidding for the tournament.

"We are now in the process of defining the bid requirements,” noted Infantino. “In the world, there are certainly many countries who have bans, travel bans and visa requirements and so on and so forth. When it comes to FIFA competitions, any team, including the supporters and officials for that team who qualify for a World Cup would need access to the country otherwise there is no World Cup, that is obvious.”

An expanded field raises the chances of the travel ban being a detriment to the USA’s hosting chances. Iran is the highest-ranked country on the list, and last qualified for the World Cup in 2014.

A host nation is expected to be chosen in 2020. Already, several states in the U.S. have filed suit to overturn the travel ban. And in perhaps an unpleasant foreshadowing, USA Wrestling has been banned from competing in the 2017 Freestyle Wrestling World Cup in Iran because of the order.

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