Los Angeles (AFP) – United States coach Bruce Arena believes his team’s World Cup qualification rivals have been given extra motivation by the US government’s hardline immigration stance, it was reported Tuesday.

Arena, whose team faces Honduras later Tuesday in a crucial World Cup qualifier, said a crackdown on illegal immigration by President Donald Trump’s administration was fuelling opponents in CONCACAF.

“Our immigration policies are impacting people in Central America, right?” Arena was quoted in several media outlets as saying. 

“And there’s probably a little bit of anger over that. Then your national sport gets a chance to play the US — I’m sure that becomes very meaningful.”

Trump made cracking down on illegal immigration a central plank of his election campaign, vowing to build a wall along the US-Mexico border in an attempt to prevent undocumented immigrants crossing into the country.

Arena meanwhile laughed off suggestions that a successful US campaign in next year’s World Cup could help unite the country.

“So you want us to win a World Cup, bring the country together, walk on water?” he said. “What else do you want us to do?”

“We’ll get to that at the right time. Let’s see if we can win a couple of games now to close out this year and maybe go to a World Cup — and then solve all of the world’s problems at that point.”

The US is currently battling to qualify for the World Cup, needing a positive result against Honduras later Tuesday to get their campaign back on track following a 2-0 defeat by Costa Rica last week.