As United States President Donald Trump spoke to assembled media members outside the South Lawn of the White House on Monday, he was flanked by an unusual guest: FIFA president Gianni Infantino.
With the 2026 World Cup seven years out, it seemed an odd time for a meeting between the two, who have become acquainted over the last year. Infantino went to the White House in August 2018 along with U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro to meet with Trump in the Oval Office following the awarding of the 2026 World Cup to the USA, Mexico and Canada. Infantino was pictured with Trump at the G20 Leaders Summit in Argentina in December of last year and was reportedly a guest of the president at his Bedminster golf club in New Jersey last month, where the financial benefits of the 2026 World Cup were reportedly the topic of discussion.
Their latest meeting was focused on women's soccer, according to Trump, who introduced Infantino to a media gathering prior to his departure for North Carolina.
"Gianni Infantino is the head of FIFA," Trump said. "He's the biggest man in soccer. We are, as you probably know, getting the World Cup in 2026 for the United States. Some of it is a partnership with Mexico and Canada. It's coming into the United States for a large percentage of the games, and we're very excited about it. Plus, Gianni and I just had a meeting on women's soccer and what everybody is going to do to make that better and more equitable, etc., etc."
Infantino took a moment to speak before departing.
"Well indeed it's fantastic to be here and to boost even more soccer in this country," Infantino said. "Soccer is the No. 1 global sport. World Cup 2026 taking place here, but we start already now. It's the biggest event ever. It's more than four billion viewers all around the world, and we will make it the biggest not only sports event but the biggest social event that we can think of.
"Soccer, which is a big part of this country as well, and women's soccer, where you are world champions, there is much more to do. The president was saying this to me, and he's right, and we're working ... we will announce very soon some new initiatives."
Equal pay remains the hot button issue in women's soccer, with the U.S. women's national team leading the charge. Its fight against U.S. Soccer over alleged gender discrimination and equal pay went to mediation, with talks falling apart and a subsequent trial date set for May 5, 2020. Players on the U.S. women's team have been publicly critical of Trump, his politics, viewpoints and past remarks and actions, with Megan Rapinoe even becoming the focus of one of his tweets during the 2019 Women's World Cup. The president implored Rapinoe to "WIN first before she TALKS! Finish the job!" in light of her viral remarks that she's "not going to the f------ White House" should the U.S. women win it all again. Rapinoe went on to win the Golden Ball and Golden Boot while guiding the Americans to a second consecutive world title and their record fourth overall.