Chicago (AFP) – A Donald Trump victory in the US Presidential elections could scupper America’s chances of mounting a successful bid for the 2026 World Cup, the country’s top soccer official told US media outlets on Tuesday.
US Soccer president Sunil Gulati said Trump’s election could adversely affect international opinion of the United States, potentially dealing a fatal blow to hopes of gathering enough votes to land the tournament.
The US Soccer Federation has not formally announced a bid for the 2026 tournament but is already seen as the popular frontrunner.
Gulati was quoted by USA Today as saying that the USA, beaten by Russia and Qatar in bids for 2018 and 2022, would only chase the 2026 World Cup if victory was possible.
“We are going to bid for a World Cup if we think we can be successful,” Gulati was quoted as saying during a briefing to US journalists in Chicago.
“Being successful in a World Cup bid or an Olympic bid for Los Angeles (in 2024) is affected by the world’s view of our leaders – not just leaders of the soccer federation.”
The United States, which is currently staging the Copa America Centenario, hosted the 1994 World Cup — widely remembered as one of the most successful editions in history.
However Gulati said the identity of the occupant of the White House was an important factor during the bid stage.
“I think the world’s perception of the US is affected by who is in the White House. So it has some bearing,” Gulati said.
“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 (America) and then more specifically for hosting events here – and for our general image from a sports perspective.”
Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee who is expected to face Hillary Clinton in the November election, has drawn widespread outrage during his campaign for remarks about Mexicans and Muslims which have seen him accused of racism.
A Trump presidency could complicate any potential joint bid between the US and Mexico, which was reportedly discussed on the sidelines of last month’s FIFA meeting.
“I think a co-hosted World Cup with Mexico here would be a little tricky if Secretary Clinton was not in the White House,” Gulati added.