United States president Donald Trump on Thursday tweeted his support for the North American bid for the 2026 soccer World Cup and also issued a veiled threat to nations that might oppose it.
Morocco is the only rival to a joint bid to stage the event from the United States, Canada and Mexico, with the FIFA Congress due to choose the hosts in Moscow on June 13.
In a wildly surprising development, Trump, who previously has shown little appetite for soccer, appeared to throw his full backing behind the three-pronged bid that would see the U.S., Mexico and Canada potentially act as co-hosts of soccer’s biggest tournament.
“The U.S. has put together a STRONG bid w/ Canada & Mexico for the 2026 World Cup,” Donald Trump tweeted.
“It would be a shame if countries that we always support were to lobby against the U.S. bid. Why should we be supporting these countries when they don’t support us (including at the United Nations)?”
The U.S. has put together a STRONG bid w/ Canada & Mexico for the 2026 World Cup. It would be a shame if countries that we always support were to lobby against the U.S. bid. Why should we be supporting these countries when they don’t support us (including at the United Nations)?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 26, 2018
Mexico president Enrique Pena Nieto replied to Trump’s tweet shortly after: “We can have differences but soccer unites us. Together we support the bid of Mexico, Canada and the USA to host the 2026 World Cup. @realDonaldTrump @JustinTrudeau.”
The North American bid boasts large stadiums and excellent infrastructure but is no certainty to win the June vote.
The Morocco bid is expected to receive strong backing from FIFA’s African and Middle East countries.
The ensuing months have seen several European countries — including Russia, France and Belgium — announce their support for Morocco’s bid, which is also likely to earn significant support from African nations, which total 56 votes.
The U.S. previously hosted the World Cup in 1994.
FIFA member countries receive one vote each, no matter their size, which gives disproportionate influence to small soccer nations. (Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Ian Ransom)