Trump promises quick visa processing if FIFA grants North America's World Cup bid
Posted June 12, 2018 12:31 p.m. EDT
Updated June 13, 2018 7:03 a.m. EDT
WASHINGTON (CNN) — President Donald Trump is promising soccer's international governing body that foreign teams, officials and fans will be able to travel to the US for the 2026 World Cup if North America wins the bid to host the tournament.
Since March, Trump has sent US soccer officials three letters addressed to FIFA, assuring that World Cup organizations and its fans won't face restrictions coming to America for the World Cup in 2026 if their country qualifies, the United Bid, the group overseeing the US-Canada-Mexico application, said in a statement.
The New York Times reviewed the letters and first reported on them.
According to the United Bid, Trump wrote in a May 2 letter that "all eligible athletes, officials and fans from all countries around the world would be able to enter the United States without discrimination" should North America host the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
Trump also assured that the US would hold the tournament "in a similarly open and festive manner" as the 1996 and 2002 Olympic Games that the US hosted, the Times reported.
Trump has imposed a travel ban, blocking immigration from several Muslim-majority countries, which is being challenged in the US Supreme Court. His administration has also sought to limit legal immigration and visa grants.
The first letter Trump sent on March 9, according to the Times, expressed his support for the North American bid in "the spirit of continental partnership." In the second letter sent three days later, Trump pledged that the US would respect FIFA rules, which includes the playing of another country's national anthem, according to the Times.
United Bid said then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also wrote in a March 12 letter to the organization that the US "intends to issue visas, subject to eligibility under U.S. law, without regard to race, skin color, ethnic, national or social origin, gender, language, religion, political opinion or any other opinion, disability, wealth, birth or any other status, or sexual orientation."
A FIFA spokesperson told CNN in a statement that as part of the bidding process, "it is usual that FIFA receives letters of support from the respective governments" and pointed to the organization's Bid Evaluation Report, which states that the United Bid committee submitted to FIFA a "letter of support from the US President."
The US has joined with its allies Canada and Mexico for a unified bid to host the 2026 World Cup. On Wednesday, the day before the 2018 World Cup kicks off, FIFA's members will cast a vote in Moscow at the 68th FIFA Congress for who will hold the tournament in eight years, with a simple majority winning.
Under the North America proposal, 60 games in 2026 would be held in the US, including everything from the quarterfinals onwards, while Mexico and Canada would host 10 games each.
The National Security Council has been in touch with countries whose votes could help the US and senior White House adviser Jared Kushner leveraged his relationship with the Saudi royal family to get them to publicly support the United Bid, the Times reported, citing a person familiar with the bid.
The United Bid faces a challenge in Wednesday's vote from Morocco, which believes that the "Donald Trump factor is helping" their country's odds.
The last time the US hosted a World Cup was in 1994. If re-elected in 2020, Trump, who has been supportive of the Unified Bid, would not be President if US hosts the World Cup in 2026 given term limits.
This story has been updated.