How many World Cup games will Houston host?

Details of the economic impact and related celebrations were also discussed this week.

James Mueller

May 26, 2023

Christian Pulisic #10 of the United States scores a PK goal and celebrates with his teammates during a FIFA World Cup Qualifying match between Panama and USMNT at Exploria Stadium on March 27, 2022 in Orlando, Florida.

John Todd/ISI Photos/Getty Images

There are still three years to go, but the hype surrounding the 2026 World Cup is already increasing. With Houston being one of the 11 U.S. host cities of the world’s largest esports tournament, Chris Canetti, the president of the Houston 2026 World Cup bid committee, provided some details on what the World Cup will look like in the Bayou City during a city council meeting on Wednesday.

With the tournament field expanding from 32 to 48 teams, there will be a total of 104 matches at the 2026 World Cup. Due to the expanded tournament, between five and eight games will be played at NRG Stadium, according to Canetti. Canetti said he and his team would know the schedule of games that will be held at NRG Stadium in September, but the teams playing in Houston will not be announced until December 2025. Rice and the University of Houston athletic facilities are two of those options being discarded to serve as potential training centers for the teams that come here.

In addition to hosting five to eight World Cup games, the city will also host the FIFA Fan Fest. The 37-day event, which is free to the public and will show all tournament matches, is expected to attract 4,000 to 8,000 people a day, Canetti said.

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Kenny Friedman, chairman of the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority, said the World Cup games and all related events would have “a fabulous economic impact on this community.” Complementing Friedman’s testimony, Canetti said the total economic impact of hosting the World Cup in Houston could exceed $1.3 billion, the equivalent of hosting five Super Bowls over a three-week period.

There is also a big push to use the Houston World Cup as an opportunity to instill a love of football in the city’s youth. With soccer largely a city-wide paid sport, Canetti wants to use the positive economic impact of hosting the World Cup to create inner-city soccer leagues that have no barriers to entry, as he believes they offer something to any kid who wants to The opportunity to play football is the first step in expanding football in the city.

“One of the things that we’re really committed to is how we can develop esports and the sport in this country in a way that benefits our city’s youth,” Canetti said. “We’re committed to making the game more accessible to people, especially underserved communities here in the city.”


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