U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati doesn't agree with President Donald Trump's temporary travel and immigration ban, but he says it's "too early" to tell if it will have any affect on the United States' bid to host the World Cup in 2026.
Many U.S. national team players, including captain Michael Bradley, have spoken out against the executive order, while defender Geoff Cameron issued his support of the order that is designed to restrict travel and immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
Gulati spoke with the Planet Futbol Podcast on Tuesday, saying "I don't think the executive order that has been issued is consistent with a lot of American values."
“There’s two images when you think about New York that maybe come into play for people here, and they’re both downtown around New York harbor," he said. "One is the memorial from 9/11, which still is in a lot of people’s minds and raises security concerns where it’s not a question of whether they’re rational or less rational, but those are concerns for people. So security is obviously something that’s very important to us.
"Obviously, the other major image is that poem on the Statue of Liberty. I think while there’s always a balance between those things, everything America stands for in terms of openness, in terms of being welcoming, is challenged by such an executive order. It’s going to be challenged and has been challenged successfully already in courts. And my guess is you’re going to see modifications in that. So 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.”
The U.S. is considered one of the favorites to host the 2026 World Cup, and a joint bid with Canada and Mexico has been mooted for the 48-team event. Last week, Gulati stayed away from explaining how the controversial order will affect a bid when he spoke to the media during halftime of the national team's scoreless draw against Serbia on Jan 29.
"Sports obviously involves international movement and free movement of players, of ideas," Gulati told reporters. "How this plays out in terms of international events, I think that's frankly a secondary issue right now. The issue involving the executive order and its implications are far broader than that."
However, after nearly two weeks since the order was signed by Trump, Gulati opened up about the impact it may have on the global view of the United States and the possibility of bringing the World Cup to American soil for the first time since 1994.
“I think it’s too early to know that," he told the Planet Futbol Podcast. "But hopefully the executive order will either be modified or we’ve talked about a 90-day period and we’ll get back if not sooner to the values we have. I think the bigger issue is what it says about the country in the eyes of other people.
"There are two things. One is the short-term effects of movement of people and so on, and the protests you’re seeing … And two is how people then view the United States. What I mean by that is some countries may turn around and say we’ll have an equal sort of policy now on your visitors to our country. That’s one issue. That’s the short-term implications. The longer one is how it changes the view of people of the United States as a world leader in these areas, as an open country, as an example, a shining light if you will. That’s certainly a concern. What I’m certainly hoping is the short-term nature of this or possible modification or reversal or elimination will help us to dampen those long-term views.”
The process for the 2026 World Cup bid won't begin until later this year with a final decision to be made in 2020.