HARRIS COUNTY – HOUSTON SPORTS AUTHORITY INSIDER

Canetti ready for challenge of bringing World Cup to Houston

Chris Canetti is taking on a new challenge. Patti Smith

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Chris Canetti grew up playing baseball in a soccer town.

While kids down the street were flocking to the pitch, he was more comfortable with a bat and a glove in his hands. He starred at first base in college and his first job after graduating was with Seattle and Colorado’s Double-A affiliate in New Haven, Conn., where, after a few years, became the youngest general manager in baseball at 26.

Soccer was still just another sport until 2000 when Canetti was hired by the then-New York MetroStars. And, while he had seen youth, high school and college soccer, he didn’t watch his first professional soccer match until his first day with the job.

Now, after 13 seasons with the Houston Dynamo, Canetti is trading his job as President of the Dynamo and Houston Dash for a prominent seat in international soccer by joining the Harris County – Houston Sports Authority as the President of the Houston World Cup Bid Committee.

He has mixed emotions. “I’ve been with the Dynamo since its inception and it’s been a major part of my life, so I’m sad to be moving on from that wonderful organization and that part of my life and the terrific memories it’s given me,’’ he said.

“But when you look beyond that, I’m excited about this amazing opportunity to come be a part of the Harris County – Houston Sports Authority and be part of the great team that’s going to lead the efforts in trying to bring the 2026 World Cup to Houston.’’

Canetti, who officially joins the Houston Sports Authority in January, was the longest tenured MLS team president with 13 years in that position and is a perfect fit for his new role.

In addition to overseeing seven trophy runs, including four MLS Conference titles, two MLS Cup titles and one US Open Cup title,  Canetti led the effort to bring women’s professional soccer to the city in 2014 with the addition of the Houston Dash to the National Women’s Soccer League. He also oversaw the development and opening of BBVA Compass Stadium and played a lead role in bringing international teams and events to the city including having Manchester United play in the 2010 MLS All-Star game at Reliant Stadium (now NRG), a game that drew the fifth-largest All-Star game attendance at the time.

Two decades ago, Houston was a sleeping giant in the soccer world. Last week’s decision by Harris County – Houston Sports Authority Chairman of the Board J. Kent Friedman and CEO Janis Burke to hire Canetti to head the bid committee underscores Houston’s place in soccer and is a huge step in the bid to become one of 10 U.S. host cities for the 2026 World Cup.

The city hosted the #United2026 bid team last winter and is one of 17 American cities in the running for 10 spots.

Canada and Mexico have already chosen three host cities each – Edmonton, Toronto, Montreal, Guadalajara, Mexico City and Monterrey. Houston is on the American list that includes New York, Washington DC, Miami, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Dallas, Boston, Cincinnati, Nashville, Atlanta, Orlando, Seattle, San Francisco, Denver, Kansas City and Baltimore.


“I started to notice as we were going to events with national and international attendees how many relationships Chris has built over the years and his relationships go way deeper than anyone else’s,’’ Burke said. “I saw how respected he was.

“…Chris has great experience in this space and will be instrumental in our World Cup bid efforts. Although our region won a spot on the final bid submission that was sent in to FIFA, there is still much work ahead of us to guarantee that we make the cut from the 17 U. S. cities currently listed down to 10.’’

With 5.1 billion soccer fans worldwide, television coverage and a month of games and events at each host site, the estimated economic impact is $350-$450 million per city.

“I think it’s an amazing vision by Kenny and Janis to create a position like this and to bring someone along like me with the experience and background and network that I have, so hopefully I can be an important piece to the team here in putting Houston in a fantastic position to be awarded a World Cup,’’ Canetti said.

The decisions will be made in two years and Canetti will oversee Houston’s push.

“We know we have what it takes as a city to host the World Cup successfully, so we need to tell that story to the people outside of our city and let them see who we are and what we have so they can make the right decision and bring the World Cup to Houston,’’ he said.

“The other key piece to this is galvanizing the community and working with all the leadership throughout the community so we can come together with a real unified bid for this World Cup effort.”

In slightly less than two decades, Houston has become a major player on the national sports scene, hosting two Super Bowls, two Final Fours and three NCAA Men’s Basketball Regionals. Coming up, the city will host the 2023 Men’s Final Four, a 2020 NCAA Men’s Regional and U.S. Women’s (golf) Open and the 2024 College Football Playoff.

“There have been numerous big events here during my time - the Super Bowl and the Final Four were among the elite and amongst the biggest and the best,’’ he said. “But if we’re able to make this World Cup happen, it’s going to be bigger than anything anyone’s ever seen.

“That’s what is hard for people to understand and part of the story we have to tell. Having the World Cup here in 2026 will be like having multiple Super Bowls in the city in the course of a month.’’




 

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Houston's losing streak extended to five games

With key Astros missing, Detroit completes the series sweep

An overall bad day for the Astros on Wednesday. Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

On Wednesday afternoon, the Astros received a big blow to their chances in the series finale against Detroit and potentially longer. Five players: Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Martin Maldonado, and Robel Garcia would all be moved to the IL due to health and safety protocols, leaving them scrambling to get a whole team together for the game against the Tigers.

The Astros would not be able to overcome both the loss of players and the onslaught of another strong start by Detroit in Wednesday's game which put them too far out front for Houston to come back from to avoid a series sweep.

Final Score: Tigers 6, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 6-6, third in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Michael Fulmer (1-0)

Losing Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (1-1)

Tigers knock out another starter early

Detroit continued their success of making Houston's starter work hard in early innings, getting after Lance McCullers Jr., and giving him an early exit. After a lengthy fist, they broke through in the second getting two hits, a walk, a hit batter, and an RBI groundout to put up three runs on 34 pitches.

He would have a quicker 1-2-3 third, but after giving up a single, a walk, and hitting another batter to load the bases and reach 87 pitches, he would be removed in favor of Joe Smith. Smith would allow all three of the inherited runners to score, adding those runs to McCullers Jr.'s final line: 3.2 IP, 4 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 87 P.

Astros try to claw back into it

After Smith would go on to load the bases again in the inning, still with two outs, Houston made another pitching change to bring in Brandon Bielak to get the third out and stop the bleeding at 6-0. The Astros would get on the board in the fifth, getting a runner on base to set up a two-run homer by Jason Castro to cut the lead to 6-2.



Bielak remained in the game to try and eat up as many innings as possible. While he continued to hold the Tigers to their six runs through the six innings, the Astros clawed back into the game. In the bottom of the sixth, Houston put their first two batters on base with a walk and single before an RBI-single by Yuli Gurriel to make it 6-3. They would threaten for more but be held there for the time being.

Astros can't cash in, Tigers complete sweep

Ryne Stanek was Houston's next reliever in the top of the seventh, getting a 1-2-3 frame to keep it a three-run game, as did Brooks Raley in the eighth. In the home part of the inning, the Astros put their first two runners on base on an error and a walk, then loaded them with a one-out single by Carlos Correa. They'd waste their chance to make something happen, though, with an inning-ending double-play.

Ryan Pressly, who had no save opportunities in recent games, entered to get some work in the top of the ninth. He worked around a leadoff double for a scoreless inning, sending the 6-3 game to the bottom of the ninth. The Astros had yet another chance to make something happen, loading the bases with no outs to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. After two outs, Yuli Gurriel would bring one run in with a walk, but that's as close as they'd come, extending their losing streak to five games and getting swept by the Tigers.

Up Next: Houston will get a much-needed day off tomorrow to try and leave this poor homestand behind them. They'll pick things up in Seattle on Friday, with first pitch of the opener of three games at 9:10 PM Central. The expected pitching matchup is Jose Urquidy (0-1, 5.23 ERA) for the Astros and Yusei Kikuchi (0-0, 3.75 ERA) for the Mariners.

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