Letters from President Trump could help U.S. win 2026 World Cup bid

One of the biggest obstacles facing the United Bid for the 2026 World Cup (which includes the United States, Canada and Mexico) is President Donald Trump. He’s a divisive figure whose policies (and often the words that come out of his own mouth) have stirred up significant anti-American sentiment around the world, and he even tweeted about the bid in April, appearing to threaten political retribution against nations who didn’t vote for the United Bid.

But it appears that Trump may know that he’s been getting in the way of something U.S. Soccer has been working toward for a decade. On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that Trump provided FIFA president Gianni Infantino with three letters signed by Trump himself which support the United Bid as well as FIFA’s rules, and promise that U.S. policies won’t affect athlete travel.

What do the letters say?

The letters promise FIFA that U.S. policies on travel into the country won’t in any way affect a possible World Cup in 2026. Trump and his administration have attempted to enact bans on travel into the U.S. from several majority-Muslim nations, which is obviously concerning to a number of the 207 countries which will be voting on the North American bid.

Part of one of the letters was revealed in May, when the president of Mexico’s soccer federation read portions of it during a speech. But we didn’t know there were multiple letters, all written with the aim of calming any fear that U.S. policies might prevent athletes from entering the country to play in the World Cup.

U.S. President Donald Trump answers questions about the summit with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un during a press conference at the Capella resort on Sentosa Island Tuesday, June 12, 2018 in Singapore. (AP Photo)
U.S. President Donald Trump answers questions about the summit with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un during a press conference at the Capella resort on Sentosa Island Tuesday, June 12, 2018 in Singapore. (AP Photo)

According to the Times, Trump’s most recent letter points to three major international sporting events the U.S. has hosted — the 1994 World Cup and the 1996 and 2002 Olympics — as examples for how they hope to welcome the world into the nation.

“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.”

The letters were crafted over a series of months, and dated between early March and early May. The first two letters specifically addressed Trump’s support of the United bid, and the intention to follow FIFA regulations. From the Times:

On March 9 [Trump] wrote to Mr. Infantino expressing his support for the North American bid in “the spirit of continental partnership.” Three days later he sent a second letter, which included five bullet points pledging that the United States would respect FIFA rules that required, for example, the playing of any country’s national anthem, the display of any national flag and respect for human rights.

Will Trump’s letters help the 2026 United Bid?

They can’t hurt. U.S. policies (or the threat of policies) have hurt the nation’s standing abroad, and so it’s helpful for other countries to get assurances that their athletes will be free to travel into the U.S. The United Bid is much stronger than Morocco’s bid, but concerns about Trump’s policies have weighed it down. FIFA inspectors assigned a medium risk assessment to the bid in the area of “human rights and labor standards,” specifically citing the travel ban.

U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro told the Times that he believes these letters are incredibly important to the bid.

“You know, in this environment, he says that, in writing — it’s pretty powerful,” Mr. Cordeiro said.

We’ll know if the letters helped soon

Voting on the 2026 World Cup location happens Wednesday, so we’ll know pretty soon if the letters — in addition to the many other things the U.S., Mexico and Canada have done to bolster the bid — helped assuage the fears of voting nations. There isn’t much fear that Wednesday will be a replay of 2010, when Russia and Qatar were surprisingly awarded World Cups in what was revealed to be a heavily corrupt process. The only competition for the United Bid is from Morocco, which has just a few things on its side: a friendlier time difference for viewers in Europe and Asia, easier travel in a nation far smaller than the U.S., and the complete absence of Donald Trump.

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Liz Roscher is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at lizroscher@yahoo.com or follow her on Twitter! Follow @lizroscher

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