Interviews

Sunil Gulati on Trump, 2026 World Cup bid, USWNT CBA, Klinsmann, Pulisic and NASL

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati sat down with a select group of journalists, and FourFourTwo's Paul Tenorio was there. Here's Gulati on a variety of topics:

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How does the result of the U.S. presidential election impact a potential World Cup bid?

First we haven’t made a decision about a World Cup bid, and what I’ve said repeatedly for the last 18 months is we won’t make a decision until we know what all the rules are. Part of those rules are clear. There were four or five important decisions that were made at the last FIFA council meeting and another one or two or three will be made in January, the most critical for us being the size of the competition and the format of the competition, along with the rules of bidding. We’ll then make a decision. Obviously we’ve had preliminary discussions.

With regard to the election results, I think enough has been written and enough will be written in the days, weeks, months to come. We respect the election and we’ll work with whoever is in the White House, in this case President-Elect [Donald] Trump and his team if we decide to bid. Or in any other areas that matter to us. A bid, if it should happen, relies critically on cooperation with the government in a lot of areas. And we look forward to working with the president-elect. He’s an avid sports fan and we’ll wait and see if we bid and what the rules of engagement are.

You said (in June) it’d be easier if Clinton won…

To be specific, what I said was under the circumstances a joint bid would be more difficult if the secretary weren’t elected, but we’re not talking about a joint bid at this point; we’re not talking about any bid right now. And I don’t think it’ll affect our final decision.

Do you fear this damages your chances?

Look, I think there’s a lot of elections that have lots of meanings to different people. And an election that the majority of the country – and I’m not going to get into electoral votes and popular votes and so on – elected a president whose message clearly resonated. He’s the president of the United States on Jan. 20, and we’ll work with him, as will be true for people around the world.

Now, how that relationship develops with other world leaders and how that impact U.S. foreign policy or the views of the U.S. remains to be seen. But it’s not going to dissuade us or persuade us to bid. Perceptions matter, for sure, but I think those will be developed in the months to come and not only in campaigns. Lots of things get said in campaigns. The meeting that happened yesterday at the White House would not have happened three days earlier, but you have a president and a president-elect. They’ve said some interesting things about each other, those are different things than they said yesterday to and about each other, and I think the same will be true around the world.

We haven’t decided whether we are going to bid and if we bid what our format, or what the organization of our bid would look like."

- Sunil Gulati

To be clear, would you entertain a joint bid with Mexico or Canada?

We haven’t decided whether we are going to bid and if we bid what our format, or what the organization of our bid would look like. We have some very different opinions in even our own board about that. About the feasibility, the desirability, the need for a joint bid.  And part of that discussion has to encompass what the format of the tournament is, and what I mean by that is two very important things happen with the format: one is the number of games may change, clearly the format may change, but then also the qualification changes and the number of hosts that are automatic participants and so on. Europe is hosting a multi-country Euro without those countries automatically qualifying, so all of those things come into play.

To clarify, are you open to a joint bid with Canada or Mexico, or bidding to host alone?

I’m open to both and listening at this point. Joint bids can mean a lot of different things to a lot of people. I think it’s safe to say we wouldn’t be interested in a Korea-Japan type situation. … I don’t think a 50-50 situation would be of interest to most of the people on U.S. Soccer’s board.

NEXT: USWNT CBA talks, NASL's future

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