FIFA president Gianni Infantino believes the United States has “all the ingredients” to be among the top three soccer nations in the world.
Infantino met with U.S. President Donald Trump in the Oval Office on Tuesday after the North American joint bid won the rights to host the 2026 World Cup earlier this summer.
And in an interview with The Washington Post and Sports Illustrated, Infantino said the time before the tournament kicks off should provide time to grow the sport in the U.S.
“What I want to see is the U.S. — the U.S. league, the U.S. national team, U.S. youth development structures, boys and girls — being part of the top three in the world,” Infantino said.
“We have economic power in the U.S., we have the sports DNA and culture and the competitiveness of the people. All the ingredients are there.”
Infantino also said Major League Soccer should be able should be able to become one of the top three leagues in the world.
“There is a lot of great work which has been done, including with the MLS,” he said. “As it is, in the world, maybe it is No. 20 or 30, the league and football movement in general? I don’t know. It should be one, two or three.
“As FIFA president, I want football to prosper all around the world, and if there is a country where all the ingredients are already there …”
Though MLS has made inroads in recent years, the sport in the U.S. has traditionally trailed behind the country’s four “major” sports leagues — the NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball — but Infantino believes the World Cup can give it the boost to gain on the others.
“I would definitely like to see soccer in the U.S. becoming one of the top sports, not number five,” he said.
Infantino also suggested he is not in favour of plans for La Liga to host a competitive season game in the United States if it would impede on MLS.
“I think I would prefer much more a great MLS game in the U.S. rather than La Liga being in the U.S.,” Infantino said, adding: “There are procedures in place for these things, so we will wait to receive anything official and then we’ll look into it.
“There are rules, regulations, [that] everyone complies with. Such a proposal has to be approved by the respective associations, by the respective confederations and by FIFA, and there has to be special reason for it.”