FIFA has postponed next week’s draw for the U-20 World Cup scheduled to be held in Indonesia, according to the host country’s FA, putting the status of this summer’s tournament in doubt amidst diplomatic conflicts.
Having qualified for the tournament via last summer’s CONCACAF U-20 Championship, the US team was to be represented at Friday’s draw by head coach Mikey Varas, who is currently with the team in Marbella, Spain for a short preparation camp.
However, the Indonesian FA (PSSI) announced on their website Sunday afternoon that FIFA has canceled the draw for this summer’s tournament, which had been scheduled to take place in the Taman Werdhi Budaya Art Centre in Denpasar, Bali.
While FIFA itself has yet to confirm the postponement of the draw, the PSSI elaborated on its potential impact on sport within the country – without mentioning its singular root cause.
The current situation surrounds the participation of the Israeli team, who are making their debut in the tournament as one of five qualified UEFA nations, alongside England, France, Italy and Slovakia.
Indonesia and Israel do not have formal diplomatic relations, however both the PSSI and public authorities had agreed to FIFA’s hosting requirements when originally submitting their bid for the 2021 edition, which was eventually pushed back two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Following Israel’s qualification in June, the PSSI reiterated their commitment to uphold the agreements, explicitly stating they would provide accommodation and security services to the team, according to FIFA regulations.
However, a wave of public protests in recent days in the nation’s capital city of Jakarta against the team’s participation, largely on the basis of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as a call from Bali’s governor to ban the team’s participation, have thrown that continued commitment into doubt.
One of the six hosting arenas – the Kapten I Wayan Dipta Stadium in Gianyar – is located on the island of Bali, which was also set to host the draw on Friday.
FIFA itself has yet to confirm the postponement or comment on the ongoing controversy, however any potential hiccups to the tournament would be a major cause of concern, with the opening game set to take place on May 20, in less than two months.
Any major disruption to the tournament this soon before kickoff, which could potentially lead to Indonesia’s suspension from FIFA, would be difficult to remedy. Even if most European countries do have a wealth of stadiums sitting otherwise unused during the summer break, the logistics and expense of canceling, postponing or moving a tournament involving 24 teams, hundreds of professional players, and likely tens of thousands of traveling fans, would be prohibitive.
The Americans are assigned to Pot 1 of the draw, along with the hosts, and would have a 25% chance to end up in a group alongside Israel. They will be making their 17th appearance in the tournament, second-most amongst the 24 teams behind five-times champions Brazil’s 19.
Israel are not the only debutants in the tournament: fellow CONCACAF team Dominican Republic is also appearing for the first time, having reached the final of last year’s CONCACAF Championship.
The other CONCACAF representatives are Guatemala and Honduras, with 16-time participants Mexico having missed out this year.