he Harris County – Houston Sports Authority Insider

Arnold set to boost Houston's bid to host 2026 World Cup

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John Arnold fell in love with soccer when he five, playing on his neighborhood fields in Dallas.

He fell in love with the World Cup watching it on Univision in 1990 and listening to Andres Cantor's now-famous 10-plus seconds, octave-sliding GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAALLLLL call.

But what really hooked him was going to watch Nigeria beat Bulgaria 3-0 in Dallas during the 1994 World Cup. It was the last time the Cup was held in the United States and the first – but hardly the last – time Arnold would feel the excitement of the World's game.

"Even by soccer standards not a marquee matchup but I remember being in the stadium and feeling the electricity; the electricity of the city,'' Arnold said. "It's a sport and a contest that brings together not only neighborhoods within the city. It brings together the globe.''

He wanted to feel that again, so he went to the 1998 World Cup in France. And he kept going - to every World Cup since then.

A quarter of a century later, the Houston billionaire philanthropist has accepted the role of chairman of the Houston 2026 World Cup Bid Committee and he'll join Bid Committee President Chris Canetti in guiding the city's efforts to become one of the 10 host cities for the 2026 World Cup.

"2022 will be in Qatar,'' Arnold said. "And in 2026 it will come full circle for me with us hosting the World Cup, the World Cup coming to Texas, the World Cup coming to my city – this time Houston.''

Sound confident? He is. The former energy trader who founded of one of the nation's top energy investment companies, retired at the age of 38 to redefine philanthropy through the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, is listed 11th on Forbes' list of Top 50 givers. Arnold is strategic in his gifting, focusing not on the usual arts, but rather on areas of national public policy, including criminal justice reform, health care costs, K-12 education, public finance, and public health. Texas Monthly just named the Arnolds to their Top 31 Most Powerful Texans.

So, when he says Houston has everything it takes to add another big event to the area's burgeoning sports resume', believe him.

"Having John Arnold head our bid committee is a terrific step forward in our efforts to bring the World Cup to our community,'' said Harris County – Houston Sports Authority Chairman J. Kent Friedman. "We know our region has what it takes to successfully host World Cup matches, but we will take nothing for granted.

"It is our job to go out and tell our story to get the local support we'll need, put together a world class bid, and show the world what the Greater Houston-Harris County area has to offer."

When the Vanderbilt grad moved to Houston in 1995, there were no major events. "That was a dark decade for Houston sporting infrastructure,'' Arnold said. "We had two professional venues – the Astrodome and the Summit and they were both at the end of their useful life. That decade, Houston did not host one major national sporting event.''

He credits the Harris County – Houston Sports Authority for the turnaround.

"Since 2000, the Harris County – Houston Sports Authority has built four world-class venues (NRG Park, Minute Maid Park, Toyota Center and BBVA Compass Stadium) and has been instrumental in bringing major events to the city,'' Arnold said.

Canetti, who left the job as President of the Houston Dynamo to take his current role with the committee, couldn't think of a better person to chair the committee than Arnold.

"It is an honor and privilege to add John Arnold to our team,'' Canetti said. "Securing Houston as a World Cup site is an important initiative, and to have one of the most influential leaders of our community on board for the process is a tremendous development.''

Both Arnold and Canetti know the bid process will be competitive. Houston is one of 17 cities vying for one of those 10 spots. Canada and Mexico have already designated three cities each for their portion of the World Cup.

"The same reason NFL chose to bring back the Super Bowl so quickly, the same reason the NCAA brought the Final Four back so quickly is why I'm confident in the success of this bid,'' Arnold said. "Houston has exceeded expectations every time it has hosted a major sporting event.''

He pointed to the downtown footprint with fan zones, hotels and easy transportation as positives as well as NRG. "We have a world class facility that is guaranteed to be 72 degrees at kick-off in the summer,'' he said smiling.

Arnold played soccer until a few years ago when, he said, "my knees told me to call it quits." Now, in addition to traveling the globe to watch the World Cup, he can help influence the next chapter in American soccer through the bid committee.

It's come a long way since 1990 when it was really, as he put it, "very much a niche sport in the U.S.''

Four years later, he was sitting at that World Cup match in Dallas.

"FIFA was prescient enough to believe if they introduced soccer to a brooder swath of America, that America would fall for the sport,'' he said.

They were right. And America did. So, did Houston.

"Houston is a city with global presence, Houston is the most diverse big city in the country,'' Arnold said. "That's what soccer is – diverse and global.''

The push starts now. Canetti has been in his role for just over a week; Arnold in his for a day. And the first big international match of the year in Houston is just around the corner – the U.S. Men play Argentina March 26 at BBVA Compass Stadium.

Arnold, Canetti and Houston's bid are just getting started.

Photo courtesy of Nike, Inc.

English Premier League

Every goal from Matchday 23 in the Premier League | NBC Sports www.youtube.com

The race for the top four spots continues to intensify in the Premier League with Manchester United running hot with six straight wins. Their latest win over Brighton now puts the Red Devils three points out of a Champions League spot, thanks to Arsenal's 2-0 win over London rivals Chelsea. At the top of the table, Liverpool continue to march on despite complicating themselves a bit in an eventual 4-3 win over Crystal Palace. Manchester City also picked up three points with the hope of catching up if Liverpool were to slip up.

Top six: 1. Liverpool (60), 2. Manchester City (56), 3. Tottenham (51), 4. Chelsea (47), 5. Arsenal (44), 6. Manchester United (44)

Scoring leader: 16 - Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)

Assists leader: 10 - Eden Hazard (Chelsea FC)

Spain's La Liga

Top six: 1. FC Barcelona (46), 2. Atlético Madrid (41), 3. Real Madrid (36), 4. Sevilla (33), 5. Alavés (32), 6. Getafe (31)

Scoring leader: 18 - Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)

Assists leader: 10 - Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)

German Bundesliga

The Bundesliga is back on after the end of the winter break. The top two dogs in the title fight- Dortmund and Bayern Munich - each picked up three points. The storyline here will be to see if Dortmund will be able to break Bayern's quest for a seventh consecutive league title. Dortmund's 1-0 win over Leipzig featured a unique matchup for American fans as U.S. men's national team players Christian Pulisic and Leipzig's Tyler Adams were on opposite ends of the sideline. Adams, who recently transferred to RB Leipzig from sister club New York Red Bulls, is still waiting to make his Bundesliga debut.

Top six: 1. Dortmund (45), 2. Bayern Munich (39), 3. Monchengladbach (36), 4. RB Leipzig (31), 5. Eintracht Frankfurt (30), 6. Wolfsburg (28)

Scoring leader: 13 - Luka Jović (Eintracht Frankfurt)

Assists leader: 8 - Sébastien Haller (Eintracht Frankfurt)

Italian Serie A

Juventus and A.C. Milan faced off midweek in the SuperCoppa Italiana final that was contested on foreign soil in Saudi Arabia. Cristiano Ronaldo scored the lone goal to pick up his first piece of silverware with his new club.
Top six: 1. Juventus (56), 2. Napoli (47), 3. Inter Milan (40), 4. Milan (34), 5. Roma (33), 6. Lazio (32)

Scoring leader: 14 - Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus) / Duván Zapata (Atalanta) / Fabio Quagliarella (Sampdoria)

Assists leader: 8 - Suso (A.C. Milan)

French Ligue 1

Top six: 1. PSG (53), 2. Lille (40), 3. Lyon (37), 4. Saint-Étienne (36), 5. Strasbourg (32, 6. Montpellier (31)

Scoring leader: 17 - Kylian Mbappé (PSG)

Assists leader: 7 - Angel Di Maria (PSG) / Kenny Lala (Strasbourg) / Memphis Depay (Lyon) / Nicolas Pépé (Lille)

Dutch Eredivisie

Top three: 1. PSV Eindhoven (49), 2. Ajax (47), 3. Feyenoord (36)

Scoring leader: 15 - Luuk de Jong (PSV)

Assists leader: 9 - Arbër Zeneli (Heerenveen)

Belgian First Division A

Top three: 1. Genk (51), 2. Club Brugge (41), 3. Antwerp (41)

Scoring leader: 16 - Mbwana Samatta (Genk)

Assists leader: 12 - Hans Vanaken (Brugge)

Portuguese Primeira Liga

Top three: 1. Porto (46), 2. Benfica (41), 3. Braga (40)

Scoring leader: 12 - Dyego Sousa (Braga)

Assists leader: 7 - Pizzi (Benfica)

Scottish Premier League

Top three: 1. Celtic (42), 2. Rangers (42), 3. Kilmarnock (41)

Scoring leader: 12 - Alfredo Morelos (Rangers)

Assists leader: 8 - James Tavernier (Rangers)

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Major League Soccer

Chris Duvall says winning mentality set on day one www.youtube.com

Preseason is officially underway for all 24 teams in Major League Soccer, including the hometown Houston Dynamo. The Dynamo will host an open practice at BBVA Compass Stadium on Saturday. The transfer saga surrounding star Alberth Elis appears to be over as reports from Honduras state that the player has agreed to forego his transfer demand, at least until the summer transfer window.

Up the road in Austin, Major League Soccer announced Austin FC as the newest club to join the league. The team will begin play in the 2021 season. Soccer Matters host Glenn Davis spoke exclusively with MLS Commissioner Don Garber and FOX Sports Analyst Alexi Lalas on what the addition of Austin means for the league and soccer in Texas.

Liga MX

Top eight: 1. Chivas Guadalajara (9), 2. Monterrey (7), 3. Toluca FC (6), 4. Lobos BUAP (6), 5. Club America (6), 6. Necaxa (6), 7. Tigres UANL (4), 8. Atlas (4)

Scoring leader: 4 - Leonardo Ramos (Lobos BUAP)

Assists leader: 3 - Carlos Rodríguez (Monterrey)

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Upcoming Matches (All Times CT):

Tuesday, Jan. 22

1:30 p.m. - [Women's International Friendly] Spain vs. USA (ESPN2/Univision Deportes)

1:45 p.m. - [Portuguese League Cup] Benfica vs. Porto (fuboTV)

2:30 p.m. - [Copa Del Rey] Getafe vs. Valencia (beIN SPORTS)

Wednesday, Jan. 23

1:45 p.m. - [English League Cup] Burton Albion vs. Manchester City (ESPN+)

1:45 p.m. - [Scottish Premiership] Kilmarnock vs. Rangers (B/R Live)

2:30 p.m. - [Copa Del Rey] Sevilla vs. FC Barcelona (beIN SPORTS)

7:00 p.m. - [Argentine Superliga] River Plate vs. Union Santa Fe (Fanatiz)

Thursday, Jan. 24

12:30 p.m. - [Copa del Rey] Espanyol vs. Real Betis (beIN Sports)

1:45 p.m. - [English League Cup] Chelsea vs. Tottenham (ESPN+)

2:30 p.m. - [Copa del Rey] Real Madrid vs. Girona (beIN Sports)

Friday, Jan. 25

1:30 p.m. - [Bundesliga] Hertha Berlin vs. Schalke (FS2/Univision Deportes)

1:45 p.m. - [Scottish Cup] Cowdenbeath vs. Rangers (ESPN+)

1:55 p.m. - [English FA Cup] Arsenal v Manchester United (ESPN+)

Saturday, Jan. 26

8:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Borussia Dortmund vs. Hannover (FS1/Univision Deportes)

8:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Monchengladbach vs. Augsburg (FS2)

9:00 a.m. - [English FA Cup] Manchester City v Burnley (ESPN+)

9:15 a.m. - [La Liga] Atletico Madrid vs. Getafe (beIN Sports)

11:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Werder Bremen vs. Frankfurt (FS2)

1:30 p.m. - [Serie A] A.C. Milan vs. Napoli (ESPN+)

1:45 p.m. - [La Liga] Athletic Bilbao vs. Real Betis (beIN Sports)

Sunday, Jan. 27

9:15 a.m. - [La Liga] Girona vs. FC Barcelona (beIN Sports)

10:00 a.m. - [English FA Cup] Crystal Palace v Tottenham (ESPN+)

11:00 a.m. - [Serie A] Torino vs. Inter Milan (ESPN+)

12:00 p.m. - [English FA Cup] Chelsea v Sheffield Wednesday (ESPN+)

1:30 p.m. - [Serie A] Lazio vs. Juventus (ESPN+)

1:45 p.m. - [La Liga] Espanyol vs. Real Madrid (beIN Sports)

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