CHICAGO — The United States has long been expected to be a contender to host the 2026 World Cup, but could the chances of another tournament on American soil be dashed by a Donald Trump presidency?
U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati wouldn't say so outright, but his responses to questions about a potential Trump U.S. presidency and what it might mean to a World Cup bid, spoke volumes.
"I think the world’s perception of the United States is affected by who’s in the White House, yes, and so it has some bearing, sure," Gulati said. "We’re going to bid for a World Cup if we think we’re going to be successful. I think whether we can be successful in a World Cup bid, or LA in an Olympic bid, is affected by the world’s view of our leaders. And not just the leaders of the soccer federation."
Though Gulati wouldn't directly say a Trump presidency would damage chances for the U.S. to host a World Cup, he said more than enough to support the idea.
"I think having somebody in the White House that gives the country an outward-looking view and a personality that is more easily accepted around the world is positive for the United States," Gulati told reporters Tuesday. "And then more specifically to your question, for hosting events here and our general image from a sports perspective, but it’s far beyond sports."
That notion might sound strange given the fact that Russia and Qatar, two countries with leadership that could hardly be described as having an "outward-looking view," are hosting the next two World Cups. Those World Cup bids were awarded amid intense scrutiny, setting off a federal investiaton that led the U.S. Department of Justice to hand down a series of indictments and eventually contributed to Sepp Blatter's departure as FIFA president.
U.S. Soccer has yet to make a decision on whether to bid for the 2026 World Cup, though the U.S. is seen as a front-runner to host the event.
"Would we love to host a World Cup in the United States in the future? The answer is, of course, yes. But we’re only going to do so if we have a clear understanding and that there’s a fair set of rules, and a transparent set of rules, and then we’ll make a decision," Gulati said.
Gulati wouldn't rule out the idea of a potential joint bid with Mexico, but says no such discussions have taken place yet, and again alluded to what a Trump presidency might mean to the possibility.
"I think a co-hosted with Mexico would be trickier if Secretary (Hillary) Clinton were not in the White House," Gulati said with a smile.