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Sunday, November 18, 2018

Soccer

Houston’s World Cup hopes could be overshadowed by neighbors


NRG Stadium has played host to dozens of soccer games over the years, including Mexican and United States National team matches. Andres Chio | The Cougar

FIFA announced last Wednesday that the United States, Mexico and Canada would co-host the first ever tri-country hosted World Cup in 2026.

Houston is a major candidate to host games due to the presence of a large international airport and its experience with hosting major events, but there are a couple roadblocks that could stop it from hosting the World Cup.

Mexico and Canada get three host cities each and have already chosen them, leaving the United States to decide the final 10 cities out of a pool of 17, including Houston.

Houston’s airport has over 40 million people that pass through each year, according to a 2016 report from Airports Council International.

George Bush Intercontinental Airport was the No. 15 busiest international airport in North America in total passengers and No. 10 busiest for just international passengers, making any World Cup tourism just another day at the office.

Houston has recent experience hosting major events like Super Bowl LI, the 2016 NCAA Final Four and the 2013 NBA All-Star Game, which helps its bid.

Soccer has had recent success in Houston too, with the three games of the Copa América Centenario averaging 61,328 in attendance at NRG Stadium in 2016, well over the 46,370 tournament average.

The biggest threats to Houston getting a spot are other host cities and one big construction project.

It is a safe bet to put New York, Los Angeles and Washington D.C. down as host cities due to their status as iconic U.S. cities internationally, but the biggest problem comes from just north of Houston.

AT&T Stadium in Dallas is one of the country’s largest stadiums, and its 100,000 person capacity will surely be used to host some of the tournament’s biggest games.

That leaves just six spots for the rest of the United States, and FIFA may be hesitant to give Texas two cities in the World Cup.

With the Dallas stadium a few hours north and Monterrey’s new stadium eight hours south, Houston could be passed over in favor of Atlanta’s new stadium and more middle-America cities like Kansas City and Denver to make travel less harsh on competitors.

The final thing that could get in the way of a bid is the planned construction to move Interstate 45, slated to begin in 2019 or 2020.

As seen with recent construction on U.S. 290, delays like major storms can make construction take seven or more years to complete.

If I-45 takes that long, it would hamstring tourists who try to get from Bush in North Houston to NRG in South Houston.

Though Houston has many things going for it, it would not be shocking if Texas has just one host city for the 2026 World Cup.

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