The United States’ bid to play host to the 2026 World Cup is encountering questions about President Donald Trump.
The nearly-year-long campaign for the North American bid — which includes Mexico and Canada — visited London on Tuesday, where U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati was grilled about how Trump’s policies might affect the country’s ability to hold the world’s largest soccer tournament.
“We can’t control the politics,” Gulati responded, according to the Associated Press. “It will change over time. And we have got all the assurances we need from all three governments to support the bid in all areas that are important to FIFA.”
It’s the second time in a week that Gulati has been pressed on the topic. During the United Soccer Convention on Thursday in Philadelphia, Gulati acknowledged that while the U.S. has “the complete support of the White House,” Trump’s public comments could influence the FIFA voting in June. For the first time, all 211 membership countries will vote on the tournament location.
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Morocco launched its bid on Tuesday and is considered the top competition to the joint North American bid, which was once seen as a heavy favorite.
If North America secures the rights, Kansas City is a potential host city. Arrowhead Stadium is one of 25 finalists for potential hosting sites in the U.S. It’s believed about half of those 25 would get to be host of at least one World Cup match. With the National Training and Coaching Development Center recently opening in Kansas City, Kan., U.S. Soccer has moved some of its training grounds here.
“This is a tough battle. This is not only about our stadiums and our hotels and all that,” Gulati told reporters during the United Soccer Coaches convention. “It’s about perceptions of America, and it’s a difficult time in the world. So there’s only certain things we can control.”
Gulati is leaving his position as the USSF president but will likely remain in charge of the 2026 World Cup campaign.
In London on Tuesday, he was specifically asked about comments Trump recently made about African nations, among other topics. FIFA also requires visa-free access to the tournament, which could potentially conflict with Trump’s proposed travel ban. Gulati said visiting fans would be subject to security checks but “will be allowed to participate.”
The bid committee was further asked about Trump’s desire to construct a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, which along with Canada are promoting unification as the backbone of their campaign.
“In terms of the famous wall, I think (soccer) is stronger than that,” Mexican soccer federation president Decio De Maria said, as quoted by the AP. “We are working together to have this event. It’s not the wall that’s going to be part of this bid. It’s (soccer).”
In the joint bid, the United States would be host to 60 matches, including the quarterfinals, semifinals and championship games. Mexico and Canada would host 10 matches each.
“We think part of our case is the certainty we can provide for a first-ever expanded World Cup,” Gulati said. “Being risk adverse — both to members and to FIFA — is part of our story. It’s also one of unity.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.