Success of Manchester Derby sets Houston up for worldwide soccer stage

HOUSTON – More than 67,000 fans packed NRG Thursday night to see Manchester United beat Manchester City, reinforcing the city’s reputation as a world-class, international sports town.

“There's a huge amount of interest in the U.S. right now. The MLS is doing very well. The quality of that is very good, so I don't see what it can't grow exponentially,” said Steve Morrell, a Houston soccer fan.

Houston has a robust history of hosting major sporting events, including the 2017 Super Bowl, 2016 Copa America and the NBA All-Star game in 2013.

Not to mention big annual events like the marathon and the Houston Open.

One of the few events it hasn’t hosted is a World Cup game.

“Last night’s game was just the latest in a long line of big-time soccer events here in Houston, but it definitely won’t be the last. We’ve shown time and time again that our community embraces soccer from the grass-roots level all the way up to the biggest of games," Houston Dynamo President Chris Canetti said. “As a fan of the game, I’m hopeful that the joint bid by the U.S., Mexico and Canada to host the 2026 World Cup is approved by FIFA, and as a Houstonian I know that we will be in great shape to take part as a host city. Between the Dynamo and the Texans, and at BBVA Compass Stadium and NRG Stadium, I can’t think of another city in America that has hosted more international games over the last five to 10 years than Houston has."

Soccer pulls in people from all over the world.

“We're ready. We're ready right now and we are anxious,” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.

Aside from the economic benefits, Turner said it would have a lasting impact on the city’s brand by exposing and marketing our city to people who otherwise may never even see it.

“We have to get to the point where when people are thinking about the United States, they are not thinking New York first, or L.A. or Chicago. When they think about the U.S., they are thinking about the city of Houston,” Turner said.

In the wake of all the excitement at NRG Thursday night, soccer fans say Houston deserves a shot at hosting the most-watched sporting event on the planet.

“I think the future of soccer in the U.S. and in Houston is in great hands,” Nathan Olabisi, a soccer fan, said.

“Promoters and tournament organizers throughout the Western Hemisphere and around the world know that Houston is a fantastic soccer market. And on behalf of the Houston Dynamo and Houston Dash, we take great pride in carrying that torch week in and week out and working to continue to grow the game in this city,” Canetti said.

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