By Andrew Warshaw
November 16 – US Soccer president Sunil Gulati says a Donald Trump presidency will not affect the decision on whether or not to bid for the 2026 FIFA World Cup but his federation has more immediate worries after a second successive 2018 qualifying defeat for Jurgen Klinsmann’s team.
“We will work with him. It is not going to dissuade or persuade us to bid,” Gulati said of the president-elect. “In regard to the election result, we respect the election and we will work with whoever is in the White House, in this case president-elect Trump and his team.”
CONCACAF are a virtual shoo-in to stage the tournament after FFA ruled out Europe and Asia from bidding. But Trump’s election could have an impact on the FIFA’s membership when they vote in 2020.
“A bid, if it should happen, relies heavily on cooperation with the government in a number of areas,” said Gulati. “I look forward to working with the president-elect. He is an avid sports fan. We will wait and see if we will bid and what the rules of engagement are.”
Of greater significance perhaps is whether the US goes it alone or bids for shared hosting with Mexico and/or Canada. Trump’s comments on Mexican immigrants became a key election issue and at face value those comments would seem to rule out a collaboration. Mexico would also unlikely be keen to be a minor partner in any deal.
Pre-election Gulati even commented that a deal with Mexico would be more “tricky’ without Clinton in the White House. But politics is politics and it could be viewed by both sides as political bridge building (literally over Trump’s wall) if a collaboration was found.
For the moment the US focus is on Klinsmann’s job following Tuesday’s 4-0 defeat by Costa Rica that followed a 2-1 loss to Mexico.
“This is the defeat that hurts the most in my five years here, there’s no doubt about it,” Klinsmann said. “It is a bitter pill to swallow.”
Gulati declined to say whether Germany’s former national coach and international striker would remain in charge, with some reports suggesting LA Galaxy coach Bruce Arena may be re-hired.
“We won’t make any decisions right after games,” Gulati said, with four months until the next qualifier. “We’ll think about what happened today and talk with Jurgen and look at the situation.”
The US still have every chance of qualifying for Russia and extending their streak of appearances in World Cup finals to eight but Tuesday’s result, coupled with the Mexico defeat last week, leaves little margin for error.
Costa Rica head the table with six points, followed by Mexico and Panama with four, and then Honduras on three. The US currently ranked 24th in the world, are tied at the bottom of CONCACAF qualifying with zero alongside minnows Trinidad and Tobago.
Only the top three teams from the 10 home-and-away matches qualify for Russia, with the fourth going into a playoff against a team from Asia.
Klinsmann, who has been in charge of the U.S. men’s team since 2011, acknowledged that his his job could be on the line.
“I understand that when you lose two games and especially two World Cup qualifiers right after each other, that there will be a lot of comments,” he told reporters.
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