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Bid committee pitches benefits of hosting 2026 World Cup to Lake Houston area businesses

February 14, 2019

Hosting games from the 2026 World Cup could have a bigger impact on the Houston economy than the Super Bowl or Final Four, said Chris Canetti, president of the 2026 Houston World Cup Bid Committee.

The former Houston Dynamo and Dash president informed Lake Houston area business owners about the potential economic impact at Summer Creek Bizcom — a meeting held by the local chamber of commerce — on Feb. 14.

Canetti discussed the committee’s efforts to make Houston one of the cities in the U.S. selected to host games for the worldwide soccer tournament.

“The World Cup is coming to North America. It’s going to be in Canada, the United States and Mexico. It’s the first time that three nations will host the World Cup together all at once,” Canetti said.

Canetti said there will be 80 matches played across the North American countries. The host cities in Canada and Mexico have already been determined for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

“What hasn’t been determined is where matches will be held in the United States,” Canetti said. “There’s going to be 10 cities ultimately selected and right now Houston is one of 17 finalists trying to host the World Cup.”

Canetti said FIFA will make their decision as to which U.S. cities will host the World Cup in two years.

Cities who are also placing their bids include Los Angeles, New York, Dallas, Miami, Washington D.C., Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Nashville, Atlanta, Orlando, Kansas City, Denver, San Francisco and Seattle.

“We have a really good story to tell about Houston, and I’m sure you guys already know the story,” Canetti said. “First of all, we have a fantastic track record of hosting major marquee sporting events, such as the Super Bowl, the Final Four; some of those are one of the best Super Bowls, one of the best Final Four’s ever organized.”

Canetti reflected back to when Houston hosted the Super Bowl in 2017. He said the Super Bowl brought in over 150,000 visitors, a regional economic net impact of $347 million, and a lot of worldwide impressions.

The World Cup could be even bigger.

“The World Cup will do that times X. We’re still trying to figure out what that (number) is,” Canetti said. “Just think about this, the Super Bowl is one game on a Sunday with events for about a week leading up to the game. The World Cup would be six matches here in Houston over the course of about 30 days. So imagine six Super Bowls in one month in Houston. … People will stay in our city. We’re going to have to do lots of things to entertain them with events and activities. It’s going to have a huge economic impact.”

The City of Houston has to raise $2 million to properly place a bid to be considered by FIFA. The money will be raised through donations and will not affect taxpayers.

“We’ve got to get to the decision makers from FIFA and showcase Houston as a city and what we bring to the table,” Canetti said. “What I’m really trying to do in my seat right now is come up with a campaign to make sure as a community we support soccer in Houston over the course of the next 18 to 24 months.”

kaila.contreras@chron.com