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Travel restrictions could damage United States' hopes of hosting a World Cup

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Posted at 7:33 PM, Feb 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-28 09:24:24-05

While United States soccer officials hope to bring the men's World Cup back to the United States in 2026 for the first time since 1994, potential travel restrictions could damage the nation's hopes of hosting the world's most-watched tournament. 

According to the New York Times, the United States is the clear favorite to host the 2026 World Cup. Soccer officials are considering a pair of bids the United States has put forth in hopes of hosting the 2026 tournament. 

One bid has the United States hosting the entire tournament. Another bid would allow the United States to share hosting duties with Mexico and Canada. 

Aleksander Ceferin, the head of the European soccer agency, told the New York Times that permanent travel restrictions similar to the temporary travel restrictions President Donald Trump proposed before it was held up by the courts could cause FIFA officials to look elsewhere to hold the 2026 tournament. 

“It will be part of the evaluation, and I am sure it will not help the United States to get the World Cup,” Ceferin told the Times. “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.

“It is the same for the fans, and the journalists, of course. It is the World Cup. They should be able to attend the event, whatever their nationality is. But let’s hope that it does not happen.”

Although most of the seven nations that were placed under travel restrictions are not considered soccer powerhouses, the seven nations do attempt to qualify for the World Cup every four years. In Iran's case, its national team has appeared in three of the last five World Cups. Iran's national team is also on pace to clinch a spot in the 2018 World Cup.

The 2026 World Cup is also slated to be the first to have 48 teams, which is an increase of 16 teams. 

Ceferin said he agreed that the United States is not the only nation that could have its hosting bid rejected due to immigration policies. Ceferin told the New York Times that the United Kingdom could also be in jeopardy of not having a bid considered due to changes in immigration policy in the aftermath of Brexit. 

FIFA is slated to choose the host of the 2026 World Cup in 2020, after a 13-month evaluation process.