US Soccer to 'voice concerns' over Saudi sponsorship at Women's World Cup

Soccer: International Friendly US WNT Soccer-USA at New Zealand
Jan 21, 2023; Auckland, NZL; United States women's soccer team pose for a team photo before the International Friendly between New Zealand and USA held at Eden Park. Mandatory Credit: Brett Phibbs-USA TODAY Sports/File Photo

Feb 9 (Reuters) - The U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) said on Wednesday it would voice its concerns to FIFA over a reported Saudi Arabian sponsorship deal for the Women's World Cup.

Last week, co-hosts Australia and New Zealand wrote to FIFA seeking urgent clarification after the Guardian reported Visit Saudi will be named as a major sponsor of the July 20-Aug. 20 tournament.

"U.S. Soccer strongly supports human rights and equity for all and believes in the power of our sport to have a positive impact," the USSF said in a statement to the Athletic.

"While we cannot control how other organisations manage sponsorship selections for the tournaments we compete in, we can voice our concerns and will continue to support our players."

The United States are FIFA's top ranked team and won the last two editions of the World Cup.

The Guardian report triggered outrage in both host countries, with human rights activists and sportswomen saying Saudi sponsorship would be at odds with the tournament's messaging on empowerment of women and girls.

Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has introduced reforms allowing women greater control over their lives in recent years but men still retain a tight grip on power in the kingdom.

Veteran U.S. forward Alex Morgan, who won the World Cup in 2015 and 2019, described the potential sponsorship as "bizarre".

"Morally, it just doesn't make sense," Morgan told reporters on Wednesday. "I just don't understand it ... I really hope that FIFA does the right thing."

Reporting by Hritika Sharma in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.