While many players have spoken out about President Donald Trump
, until now there has not been a lot of comment from soccer officials.
In his recent podcast with SI.com's Grant Wahl
, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati
was asked about the
travel ban and he responded by saying that "it 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.”
Gulati said there are two effects of any travel restrictions -- the short-term and the long-term, the practical impact of movement of travelers and
the long-term effect of how the USA is viewed by the rest of the world.
Gulati said it was too early to tell how the travel ban and other Trump policies (border wall) would affect the
USA's chances of hosting the 2026 World Cup -- U.S. Soccer has not yet decided if and how it will bid and a decision by FIFA won't be made until 2020, by then the fourth year of Trump's
But in an interview
with the New York
Times' Rory Smith
, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin
said the USA's chances of winning the right to host the 2026 World Cup would be damaged if Trump’s travel restrictions come
into full force.
“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. "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
Trump's temporary travel ban, struck down by a federal court in Seattle, would have, for example, prevented the Iran national team from obtaining visas to the USA. Iran qualified
for the 2014 World Cup and is in good shape to qualify again in 2018. (Iran granted the U.S. wrestling team permission to compete at the 2017 Freestyle World Cup after the travel ban was struck
Travel restrictions to players, officials and fans present a problem for the organization of any World Cup. FIFA went ahead and overwhelmingly gave the 2018 World Cup to
's Russia, despite his record of abuses and human-rights violations and Russia's travel restrictions. (Russia has agreed to ease travel restrictions for fans in 2018.)
While it is still too early to tell what will be U.S. travel policies a month from now, let alone a year or 10 years from now, that concern about how the USA is viewed by the world -- and vice
versa, Trump of the world -- is a valid one. Will there will be such viable competition to a U.S. bid -- unlikely at this point -- that it might be derailed by world opposition to Trump's policies?
Hard to know.
FIFA has set a four-step process for the determination of the 2026 World Cup host:
-- Strategy and consultation phase (May 2016-May 2017);
phases for bid preparation (June 2017-Dec. 2018);
-- Bid evaluation (Jan 2019-Feb. 2020);
-- Bid decision (May 2020).
By September, when the IOC chooses between Los Angeles
and Paris for the 2024 Summer Olympic host, we'll have a much better idea of how Trump views international sports and vice versa, so U.S. Soccer still has plenty of time to evaluate the Trump
As far as soccer goes, we have little to go on in terms of Trump's interest, if any, in the sport. He played soccer at military school in 1964 but that was the prehistoric days
for soccer in this country. (He isn't the first president to play soccer -- George H.W. Bush
was the captain at Andover and played one year in Yale.) Trump's first five weeks have moved by
so fast without getting insight into his (current) spectator interest in sports -- we know all about golf.
At a media gathering in November, four days after the election, Gulati said he
was not concerned about the outcome of an election that was unexpected. U.S. Soccer has ties to the Clintons, going back to the World Cup 2022 bid in 2010 when President Bill Clinton
honorary chairman of the USA Bid Committee and Clinton right-hand man Doug Band
was a committee director, and they would have helped open a lot of doors.
(Donna Shalala, the president of the Clinton Foundation, is on the U.S. Soccer board.)
"We'll develop those
relationships," Gulati said of the new Trump administration. "In the White House today and in the [next] White House, there will be people in the building who love the game. That's true in every
statehouse across the country. That's different than 20 years ago, or in 1988 when we were bidding [for the 1994 World Cup]. I can name the people in the White House who are huge fans and tweet about
it, come to our games, that write about it, wish us good luck for today. That will be true in any administration for the foreseeable future."
U.S. Soccer will certainly need to seek out
those huge soccer fans in the Trump administration and enlist their support for what wasn't going to be an easy sell to begin with, in light of the FIFA scandals and the dim view many in government
have about FIFA. Whether Trump will view a 2026 World Cup bid effort with any suspicion, given the Clinton history with World Cup 2022 bid, is unknown, but he has shown how he views those who opposed
him or were critical of him as he has gone about selecting his administration. (Trump doesn't forget.)
The hardest part of selling the World Cup 2026 might be at home, not abroad.