The World Cup in Qatar is a little more than a year from now, and according to a poll from RunRepeat, 59 percent of respondents believe that the United States should boycott the event, with 61 percent saying that FIFA should move its quadrennial showcase out of the Middle East nation because of abuse of migrant workers and treatment of women and the LGBT community in Qatar.
The poll of 4,201 people included 1,015 Americans, which is somewhat odd for a question about whether Team USA should go to Qatar. Either way, it’s heartening to see opposition to Qatar’s World Cup, as thousands of workers have died while building stadiums and other infrastructure related to the tournament. That’s part of a miserable human rights record in Qatar, only exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Boycotting the World Cup in Qatar over these issues would be quite different than the United States’ and Soviet Union’s decisions to skip the 1980 and 1984 Summer Olympics, respectively, as a matter of Cold War dick-swinging; or talk about the U.S. staying out of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing for similar reasons. The World Cup winding up in Qatar happened as a result of corruption and bribery anyway, and FIFA’s steadfastness in keeping the tournament there is only a sign of the organizing body’s continued issues.
All of that said, it’s awfully bold of anyone to assume that the United States men’s national team will even have the opportunity to boycott Qatar. While the Americans have a bye to the third round of CONCACAF qualifying, which starts in September, the USMNT failed to reach the 2018 World Cup, finishing ahead of only Trinidad and Tobago in the six-team final qualifying group.
This time around, there will be eight teams in the final qualifying group, with the top three advancing to Qatar and the fourth-place team going to an inter-confederation playoff — last time around, Honduras got that spot and lost to Australia.
Honduras, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Jamaica also have byes to the final CONCACAF qualifying round, with the other three spots to be decided in June playoffs between the six winners of first-round groups.
Of course, after the USMNT gets lit up by Canada or El Salvador or Belize or St. Kitts and Nevis, we won’t have to worry about boycotting Qatar at all. It’s nice when problems take care of themselves, isn’t it?