Sometimes there are stories that are bigger than sports, but manage to encompass sports. On January 27, the President of the United States signed an executive order that prohibits citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Sudan, and Syria from entering the country. It did not take long for the internet to begin reporting how this would affect the USL.
USL player Mehrshad Momeni will no longer be able to travel to his team's matches at Toronto, Ottawa, or Vancouver.
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) January 28, 2017
Mehrshad Momeni, an Iranian, played soccer in the USL for Orange County as recently as 2015. After retiring as a player in 2016, Momeni began coaching youth soccer.
Although Burke’s post about Momeni is not entirely accurate, the executive order could prevent a USL player from traveling with his team to certain away matches if that player hailed from one of the seven enumerated nations:
- Immigrant and non-immigrant entry into the United states is affected.
- Exceptions are in place for “those foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas.”
- International USL players are most likely to hold H-2B visas or green cards.
A player on one of the 27 USL teams located inside the United States would face a problem when his team infrequently travels to play one of the 3 Canadian sides. A player on a Canadian team, though, would be forced to miss nearly half the season, since almost all matches are contested on the south side of the Canadian-American border.
All of this would be a moot point for the USL if there were no players from one of the 7 identified nations. A search through available USL roster information turned up one possibility. Omar Mohamed, born in Mogadishu, Somalia, was listed on FC Cincinnati’s roster when StP began making inquiries for this story.
When asked how the immigration ban would impact Mohamed’s ability to travel with the team outside the United States, FC Cincinnati President and General Manager Jeff Berding revealed that Mohamed is no longer on the 2017 roster.
No other identified USL player appears to have ties to one of the countries listed in the executive order, but the effects of the ban must also be considered with respect to prospective players, also. Will teams shy away from free agents if they might be forced to face travel restrictions?
Berding stated at this time, the ban does not affect FC Cincinnati’s desire or ability to sign players from the seven countries named in the executive order. He added that the club has not yet been briefed on the order.
Assuming that most USL clubs are in the same position as Cincinnati (representatives of the league have not yet responded to interview requests), it would seem that the league is in the same position as most of the nation when it comes to the executive order. We will have to see how it plays out in order to fully realize the consequences.