HARRIS COUNTY-HOUSTON SPORTS AUTHORITY INSIDER

Soccer matters: Houston hopes to be one of the U.S. cities hosting the 2026 World Cup

Could NRG host the World Cup? NRG Park/Facebook

The Harris County – Houston Sports Authority Insider will take you inside Houston Sports each Friday because #WeAreHoustonSports!

Now that the U.S., Mexico and Canada have won the combined bid to host the 2026 World Cup, we move to the next question:

Will Houston be one of the host cities?

The simple answer is we hope so. Houston is one of 17 U.S. cities vying for 10 host spots and – bottom line -- we’ve got 24 months to show FIFA and U.S. Soccer that we deserve to be a host city.

We all know soccer is growing exponentially on all levels in the nation’s fourth-largest -- and one of the most diverse -- cities in America. Whether we’re talking the Houston Dynamo or Dash, international events or high school and league play, the game is huge.

Just ask some of the 70,728 fans who packed NRG Stadium for the 2016 Copa America U.S. vs. Argentina semifinal and set a Houston soccer attendance record with 70,728. Or the 1.5 million fans who have turned out to see the 2010 MLS All-Star Game, 4 CONCACAF Gold Cups and 33 total major soccer matches at NRG.

Or the fans who have turned out for 250 soccer events – including three CONCACF Gold Cups and the 2012 Men’s World Cup qualifier – at BBVA Compass Stadium.

“Every soccer match we host from here on out will be viewed by FIFA and US Soccer and their success will show Houston’s passion for the game of soccer,’’ said Doug Hall, Harris County - Houston Sports Authority VP for Special Projects. “So we’re on a two-year dating period if you will.’’

And it’s not just about organizing committee, sponsors and stadiums. The fans can make a huge impact as well by supporting the Dynamo, Dash and all the major events in Houston.

It all starts in September when NRG and BBVA each host big matches. NRG hosts Mexico and Uruguay in a big international match Sept. 7 and the Dynamo meet Philadelphia in the U.S. Open Cup Sept. 26. The NRG match marks the 17th time Mexico has played in Houston.

Canada and Mexico have already chosen three cities each – Edmonton, Toronto, Montreal, Guadalajara, Mexico City and Monterrey -- to host matches and Houston is on the shorter end of that American list that includes New York, Washington DC, Miami, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Dallas.

At Tuesday’s “State of Soccer” luncheon, officials including Hall, HCHSA CEO Janis Burke, Houston Texans and Lone Star Sports & Entertainment president Jamey Rootes and Dynamo and Dash president Chris Canettti, said the estimated economic impact is $350-$450 million per city.

“It’s a transformational event,’’ said Rootes. “Not just a national event. A global, global audience. The eyes of the world on the city of Houston.”

The last time the U.S. hosted a World Cup was 1994 and Houston wasn’t chosen to host. Dallas did host in 1994 at the Cotton Bowl. Canetti pointed to the impact that World Cup had on the growth of soccer both in Houston and the U.S.

“We all saw what having the World Cup being here in 1994 meant to the growth of the game and really led to the start of MLS,’’ he said. “Having the World Cup here in 2026 is not going to be just an economic boon, but an opportunity to grow the game of soccer here in the United States.’’

Host cities will have six matches – one every five days – and corresponding events over a 32-day period from mid-June to mid-July 2026.

Houston has a proven track record with huge events, having hosted two Super Bowls, two Final Fours and three NCAA Men’s Basketball Regionals.  We’ll also host the 2023 Men’s Final Four, a 2020 NCAA Men’s Regional and U.S. Women’s Open and the 2024 College Football Playoff.

Burke said people always ask her if the World Cup is bigger than a Super Bowl.

“It really is,’’ she said. “It’s hard for Americans sometimes to understand that. But it’s way bigger even than the Super Bowl.’’

Houston threw a week-long party when we hosted historic Super Bowl LI in 2017. The events during the week were sensational and the game was one of the best ever with New England coming from a record 25 points down in the third quarter to beat Atlanta 32-24 in the first overtime win in Super Bowl history.

That said, turn out and help us show FIFA and US soccer how passionate Houston is about the sport.

The clock is ticking.



 

 

 

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome