Soccer players’ biggest prize is a chance at participating at the World Cup, garner sponsor interest, draw applause from millions of fans, and enjoy the limelight that this global event brings to the sport.
In 2026, some Muslim athletes face the risk of never experiencing this, as Trump’s ban on Muslim countries (and other non-Muslim) got the nod of approval from the US highest legal bodies, the Supreme Court.
Trump had assured FIFA that this would never be the case even with a ban, but will this promise hold true and can it be subjectively interpreted to shape immigration laws to meet the needs of powerful politicians that year?
What we know
Backtracking to 2015, then US presidential candidate Donald Trump called for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.
While creating complete and drama filled chaos at airports and immigration offices in the US, the proposal was rejected by several US federal judges as it violated a number of provisions of the US Constitution.
The presidential executive order then signed banned visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Sudan.
Iraq was dropped from the list but the courts were still adamant not to pass it.
The latest 5-4 Supreme Court ruling addressed a third, watered-down version of the ban, which also targeted Venezuelans and North Koreans.
Regardless of the narrative on why these countries are targeted or what purpose this verdict achieves in reality, the question remains: What about the United bid to host the 2026 World, an endeavor shared between the US, Canada, and Mexico?
To play or not play?
The United bid to host the World Cup in 2026 was won following a vote of FIFA members in Moscow, a day before the 2018 World Cup, and beat a bid by Morocco.
If Iran qualifies for the 2026 tournament, as it did in 2018, would it play under the current “Muslim ban” decision to ban it from traveling there?
Unless a Supreme Court decision is overturned, a very difficult and rare thing to do, it looks that this could be a possibility.
Promises made..but read the small print
According to the New York Times, last March, Trump has provided United States soccer officials with three letters addressed to FIFA president Gianni Infantino, containing specific guarantees that foreign teams, officials, and even fans will face no restrictions on entering the U.S. for World Cup matches in 2026 “if their countries qualify for the tournament.”
Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said Trump’s promise “rings hollow”, reported Middle East Eye, a news site.
“I don’t know how they can square their assurances with the reality we see every day,” Hooper told Middle East Eye.
The letters have not been made public.
In 2018, German news outlet DW said US sportswear firm Nike says it could not supply boots and other equipment to Iran’s national football team players due to US sanctions on the Islamic country.
Can this happen in 2026, or what other interpretations will apply?
2026- Largest ever WorldCup
The 2026 World Cup will be will have 48 teams, up from the current 32, and entail 16 host cities. Mexico and Canada will host 10 games each, and the US will host the other 60, according to VOX news.
“Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, and adviser, leveraged his relationship with Saudi Arabia to get the country to publicly announce its support for the US’s 2026 bid, and the National Security Council was in touch with other countries to try to win their votes,” said VOX.