U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted a threat to countries opposing North America’s bid to host the 2026 World Cup — and the global soccer organization FIFA promptly pointed to ethics rules prohibiting any nation from wielding “undue influence.”
The U.S. has presented a joint bid with Mexico and Canada for the right to host the world’s biggest sporting event. Morocco has issued a competing bid. The North American proposal has hit stiff resistance because of Trump’s travel ban on several Muslim-majority nations, the perception that the U.S. is increasingly hostile to foreigners, and resentment over Trump’s reported reference to Haiti and African nations last year as “shithole countries.”
The World Cup host will be announced on June 13 after a vote by all FIFA member nations.
On Thursday, Trump touted America’s “strong bid” to host the event — and appeared to threaten that the U.S. might withdraw “support” from countries that lobby against it.
Several European nations — including Russia, France and Belgium — have already announced their support for Morocco. The country will also be backed by other African nations, which hold a significant percentage of FIFA votes, according to ESPN. Morocco also has the backing of several South American and Asian nations. In addition, the governments of the Caribbean nations St. Lucia and Dominica have pledged support for Morocco.
FIFA issued a statement to Reuters saying that while it cannot comment on specific remarks about the World Cup, it pointed to its rules of conduct, which prohibit governments from interfering in national soccer federations and from exerting “undue influence” on the selection of the World Cup host.
FIFA’s bidding regulations also specifically prohibit anyone affiliated with a bid “from making any written or oral statements of any kind, whether adverse or otherwise, in relation to the bids of other member associations.”
The rules also instruct member associations to reject “any attempt to be influenced in relation to their function and obligations” as voters.
The North American bid so far has the support of 16 voting nations in South and Central America, as well as Saudi Arabia.
The U.S. won’t be playing in the World Cup competition in Russia this summer because its men’s team wasn’t strong enough to advance.
Being schooled on ethics by FIFA marks a surprising low. The organization was hit with a host of U.S. indictments in 2015 on several charges, including tax dodging and bribery for marketing contracts and World Cup votes.