FIFA President Gianni Infantino made many U.S. Soccer fans worried that the United States may not be hosting the 2026 World Cup because of President Donald Trump’s “Muslim Ban” executive order which has kept people from six countries from entering the United States. Of the countries on the banned list, Iran is the only nation to have qualified for the World Cup and would likely qualify for 2026.
Speaking at the FIFA Executive Summit, Infantino said, “Teams who qualify for a World Cup need to have access to the country, otherwise there is no World Cup. That is obvious.”
This is all well and good and if I didn’t know anything about FIFA, I would think there was some truth behind those words. The World Cup is ideally open for all 211 FIFA recognized nations and yes, the country hosting needs to be able to allow any team from any nation to be in their country to participate in the World Cup.
But this is FIFA and I, and many others, know what FIFA is known for. This is an organization that voted to have the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Russia, a country who has shown years of homophobia and racism, just recently had a member of their government wanting to legalize hooliganism and would welcome fighting among supporter groups.
Then, in a move that made granting the World Cup to Russia seem like a sane and rational decision, FIFA voted to have Qatar host the 2022 World Cup. Qatar, a country with similar homophobia issues, has been using forced labor to build their stadiums and over a thousand workers (likely more) have already been killed. And that World Cup is still five years away. Both countries had been shown to use corrupt methods to obtain hosting rights. So call me skeptical, but Trump’s “Muslim Ban” alone isn’t going to prevent the United States from hosting the World Cup.
Not only would that have to result in FIFA actually making a decision that didn’t revolve around how much money they would get, but the hosting situation for 2026 is shallow in itself already. Because Russia and Qatar are hosting the previous two World Cups, European and Asian countries cannot bid for 2026 so that alone eliminates 100 countries.
South America is willing to wait until 2030 because of an expected Uruguay/Argentina joint bid to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first World Cup in Uruguay. The Oceanic nations as well as the Caribbean and Central American portion of CONCACAF is way too small and/or too poor to host. So this leaves North America and Africa. And while Morocco has applied to host the World Cup multiple times in the past, it’s unrealistic for any African nation to go for 2026 at this point.
The only real competition for the United States in hosting the 2026 World Cup would be the country to the north and south of them. But even this would most likely involve the United States in some fashion. A 32-team World Cup must have 12 stadiums with a minimum 40,000 capacity. It may be even more for the first 48-team World Cup in 2026. Canada only has four such stadiums and none that can host the opening game and World Cup Final (requires 80,000 capacity) and Mexico has seven stadiums over 40,000 capacity including the 87,000 seat Estadio Azteca. Unless they want to spend billions to build World Cup approved stadiums, they would be encouraged to create a joint bid with the United States.
So, worst-case scenario, the U.S. shares hosting duties with Mexico and/or Canada. Best-case scenario, the U.S. is the lone host. That hasn’t changed before Trump took office and there’s nothing to indicate that it has changed now, regardless of what Infantino says.
But maybe I’m being a bit unfair to the current FIFA administration. Russia and Qatar were granted the World Cup at a time where Sepp Blatter and his corrupt buddies ran the show and they aren’t there anymore. Although, two months after Infantino was named FIFA President, FIFA was advised to take World Cups from countries like Qatar who committed human rights abuse. That was April 2016 and Qatar is still hosting the World Cup.
In the end, FIFA knows where they will get the most money and due to the lack of countries who are eligible to bid, the 2026 World Cup will take place in the United States in some fashion. Maybe the U.S. will host the entire tournament, maybe they will have a joint bid with Canada and/or Mexico but I would be incredibly shocked that FIFA would actually make a decision based on a moral decision than one based on money and give the 2026 World Cup to a country other than the United States due to Donald Trump’s “Muslim Ban.”