2026 FIFA World Cup Already Benefiting Houston

Three quotes from DaMarcus Beasley and Dynamo co-owner Ben Guill's visit with John & Raheel with Del

On Tuesday, the Houston Dynamo announced a commitment to develop 15 mini-pitches within the next five years in the Greater Houston area. The project is being led by the U.S. Soccer Foundation, former Dynamo defender and U.S. Soccer legend DaMarcus Beasley and Dynamo co-owners Jake Silverstein and Ben Guill.

Beasley and Guill visited with ESPN 97.5 FM morning show John & Raheel with Del to elaborate on the announcement and answer a few questions on the current state of the Houston Dynamo. The following are three notable quotes from the segment:

Dynamo co-owners approached DaMarcus Beasley

"It started, the idea, with Ben and the other minority owner Jake [Silverstein]. They came to me and asked me what I thought about this idea, about creating mini-pitches around Houston and it was a no-brainer for me. A hundred percent, I'm with the youth of soccer, because that's where the future is. Its in the youth, and to be able to be a part of this program and have this project here in Houston, it means a lot. And, the fact that we have their support - from the Houston Dynamo, the Dash, and a lot of people around Houston - its a no-brainer to start these pitches."

- DaMarcus Beasley, four-time FIFA World Cup participant with USA and former Dynamo team captain


DaMarcus Beasley took part in seeing out the creation of the first futsal courts in his hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana last year. The U.S. Soccer Legend has publicly expressed his desire to remain in Houston and to be involved in youth development in his retirement, whether that be with the Houston Dynamo or elsewhere.

Two months removed from capping off a 20-year career, Beasley has taken on his first post-retirement project and one that shows his potential of filling the void as a much needed connection between the ownership group of the club and the Houston soccer community.

2026 FIFA World Cup "a big part of it"

"Clearly its a big part of it but - even without the World Cup coming up - Jake Silverstein, who has become very involved with U.S. Soccer in Portland and has built some of these mini-pitches, and I decided it's just the right thing to do. It's the right thing to bring the game to parts of the city that don't have the opportunity to play in a safe and fun environment. We work with U.S. Soccer and have commited a bunch of money to build 15 of these mini-pitches over the next five years. It will be important to the 2026 bid and hopefully it will be very good for the Dynamo as well."

- Ben Guill, Houston Dynamo minority owner and board member of Houston 2026 World Cup Bid Committee

The biggest side effect of the United States hosting the 1994 FIFA World Cup was the creation of Major League Soccer, the country's longest-running first division league that will celebrate its 25th season next year. With the USA joint-hosting the 2026 FIFA World Cup with Canada and Mexico, it seems the youth game could stand next to benefit.

This initiative comes from the Houston 2026 World Cup Bid Committee Grow the Game strategy and "is part an overall vision for Houston that seeks to create and maintain 30 mini-pitches and expand the U.S. Soccer Foundation's Soccer for Success program in the area."

It is also part of the U.S. Soccer Foundation's plans to install 1,000 pitches by 2026 as part of their national It's Everyone's Game movement "to create greater access to the sport and its benefits in underserved communities nationwide."

The Houston Dynamo and other MLS clubs have already installed several of these futsal-style "mini-pitches" as part of their charitable programs in conjunction with an MLS WORKS initiative that began at the 2015 MLS All-Star Game.

Making Dynamo, Dash more relevant in Houston

"The important thing for the Dynamo is we need to do a better job and be more a part of the Houston community. We need to fill up that stadium every game. One reason, its a lot of fun to go and we hope with that efforts like this, that Jake and I are doing, and all the efforts the team make - the Dynamo and the Dash - will just make us more and more relevant to the city."

- Ben Guill, Houston Dynamo minority owner and board member of Houston 2026 World Cup Bid Committee


There's no secret the Houston Dynamo, and Houston Dash, have trouble filling up BBVA Stadium on a consistent basis. The average for Dynamo matches has declined steadily since the 2015 season and reached a new club-low in 2019.

The Houston-based Guill is right about one thing: the Dynamo could potentially make up a lot of ground by extending the olive branch to the community.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

The numbers show a concerning trend. Composite image by Brandon Strange

Michael Brantley signed a two-year, $30M deal with the Houston Astros prior to 2019 to little fanfare. The then 32 year-old was coming off of yet another injury riddled season with the Cleveland Indians, and the signing was seen as a safe gamble (if there is such a thing). Brantley would produce if healthy, but would he ever be healthy?

Brantley went on to have two of the healthiest seasons of his career, putting up big numbers for the Astros. Across two seasons, Brantley slashed .309/.370/.497 with a 134 wRC+. The Astros got the best version of Brantley, who had slashed .295/.351/.430 with a 114 wRC+ during his tenure with the Indians.

Brantley is set to hit the market once again, and the Astros face a couple of questions. One, is Brantley worth bringing back? Two, is Brantley worth a qualifying offer?

Hard Hit % - 37.3%

Barrel % - 4.9%

K % - 15%

BB % - 9.1%

Chase % - 20.1%

(All numbers from 2020)

Brantley's greatest skill is controlling the strike zone. He forces pitchers to come to him, and he's only getting better at it. His chase % was the best of his career, and it was 6% better than his 26% mark in 2019. Brantley was t-19th in MLB in chase % with Ronald Acuña Jr. and Yasmani Grandal. Brantley combines this enviable level of plate discipline with another enviable trait: he doesn't swing and miss. His 16.4% whiff % was in the 93rd percentile of MLB. By comparison, Acuña and Grandal were in the 29th and 26th percentiles respectively. Those two don't chase often because they keyhole one spot that they know they can drive. Brantley forces pitchers to come in the zone similar to those two, but he usually doesn't swing and miss when the pitchers do come to him.

However, there are some alarming trends for a hitter now well onto the wrong side of 30.

His 15% K% was the highest it's been since 2011, when he was a 24-year-old in his first full big league season. It was a 4.6% increase in K% over last season. Brantley's 16% whiff % is far and away the worst it's been in his career, and it's 5.6% worse than it was in 2019. That 5.6% is the difference between swinging-and-missing the second least in MLB and swinging-and-missing the 11th least. That's a steep drop over one season. Remember, Brantley chased pitches outside the zone the least he ever had in his career. That increase in whiff % mostly came on strikes. His contact % on strikes dropped 4.8% from 2019.

A big indicator of age is the inability to catch up with the fastball. Brantley's 13.2% whiff rate against fastballs in 2020 was the worst it's been in his career. The second worst? 7.5% back in 2011. On the surface, Brantley performed fine on fastballs in 2020. He batted .295 with a .438 SLG against them. But it gets a little uglier just one level deeper. Brantley's xBA on fastballs was .242. His xSLG was .410.

Compared to his 2019 performance against fastballs, it was quite the downturn. Brantley batted .320 against fastballs in 2019 with a .311 xBA. He slugged .501 with a xSLG of .506. Lastly, Brantley had an 89.3 average exit velocity on fastballs in 2019 compared to 87.4 in 2020. The downturn in fastball productivity is alarming.

Brantley performed great against breaking balls and offspeed pitches in 2020, but once pitchers realize that he can't stay on the fastball like he used to, Brantley will be setup for failure, not success.

Brantley doesn't run well either. His average sprint speed of 26.2 ft/s was in the 34th percentile in MLB. Brantley did perform well defensively by nearly every metric, but he was in the 39th percentile in outfielder jump. He really can't afford a downturn defensively, and with Yordan Alvarez returning as the full time DH next season, they won't have the ability to give Brantley the occasional day off his legs at DH

The qualifying offer has been set at $18.9M for the 2020 offseason. Considering Houston's lack of draft picks due to their punishment for technological sign-stealing, recouping some of that draft capital would be helpful for the club. $18.9M would represent a $3.9M raise for Brantley, which is exactly the price of not being able to bring back Brad Peacock.

It's unlikely that Brantley will regress so quickly that he'll be unplayable in 2021. He will likely be a productive ballplayer. Considering that the Astros can afford to pay the raise in salary if he accepts the qualifying offer, it is worth giving it to him. If he declines the QO, however, it isn't worth giving him a multi-year deal. There are too many signs of regression, and anything more than one year is a risk. If Brantley demands a multi-year deal, the Astros should let him walk and take the draft pick compensation.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome