The next World Cup is less than six months away, but already Houston is a key player for 2026 when the world’s biggest tournament will return to North America for the first time since 1994.
For Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, last week’s announcement that Houston will be one of 16 host cities for 2026 is a testament to the city’s growth on the international scene.
“You can’t be a global international city if you don’t participate on a global international stage,” said Turner.
The city will be hosting five to six World Cup matches over 21 days. Each one of the games bringing tremendous values to H-Town, “It’s the equivalent of every time they play a game, it’s like a Super Bowl taking place in our city. Simply amazing,” said Turner.
The expected economic impact according to Houston’s World Cup Bid Committee?
Each game will be on par with Super Bowl 51 in 2017. That game generated $347,000,000 for the area.
However, five to six World Cup games will be unlike anything Houston has seen for a sporting event.
City officials anticipate an economic impact north of one billion dollars.
“Hosting a World Cup is like seeing a comet,” said director of the youth soccer club for the Houston Dynamo and Dash Randy Evans.
For millions, it truly is a sports spectacle rocketing into Space City.
Houston’s contingency felt they were on solid ground going into last week’s announcement.
“Our infrastructure is strong and in place and was one of the really strong points of our bid,” said President of Houston’s World Cup Bid Committee Chris Canetti.
In an interview with KPRC 2 Investigates, Canetti pointed to Houston’s pedigree for hosting other major championships.
“No other candidate city has hosted more major sporting events than we have since 2004,” he added.
Two Super Bowls, two Final Fours, and Four World Series.
FIFA Officials experienced an event personally last fall when their visit to Houston just happened to be on the same day as Game 1 of the Astros-Braves World Series.
It ended up further bolstering Houston’s pitch by showing officials how smoothly the city handles championship events.
The focus now is to gear up for 2026.
Practice facilities are set in place with the University of Houston, Rice University, The Houston Sports Park, the stadium for the Houston Sabercats right next door, and PNC Stadium where the Dynamo play are for the most part good to go.
However, the host venue NRG will need work.
“We need to build a full-on grass surface,” Canetti said.
The process won’t start until March 22, 2026, immediately following the conclusion of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
NRG is anticipated to undergo $10,000,000 in Capital Improvements prior to the World Cup.
The field and its quality will be the key focus as FIFA has its standards.
“We are going to try to have our field in place at some point in May and have it down and ready for matches to go in June,” said Canetti.
As for an immediate return?
It will be seen on soccer fields all over the area as the ramp-up to 2026 is expected to generate significant interest in youth soccer.
When KPRC 2 Investigates asked Evans how differently he expects Dynamo and Dash camps to look next year and those that follow? Evans did not hold back, “I would expect that to double each time.”
Evans has coached soccer for 35 years. He views the 2026 World Cup as a golden opportunity that only comes around once in a generation.
“You see all these little kids running around. The next time we host a World Cup, [they’re] going to be full-grown adults with kids of their own, so we really need to take advantage of this opportunity.”