HARRIS COUNTY-HOUSTON SPORTS AUTHORITY INSIDER
Soccer matters: Houston hopes to be one of the U.S. cities hosting the 2026 World Cup
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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.