HOUSTON — Three-plus years of hard work were all worth it after FIFA announced Houston will be a host city of the 2026 World Cup.
It's a huge opportunity for Houston. Four years from now, the World Cup will be played in the U.S., Mexico and Canada. Forty-eight teams each representing their country will play 80 matches total. Houston will host six of them at NRG Stadium.
"Unlike the World Series or NCAA Final Four or even the Super Bowl, we're talking about bringing in international dollars, money that otherwise wouldn't be spent here," said Dietrich von Biedenfeld with the University of Houston-Downtown.
Experts said it will be like hosting six Super Bowls in a month's time. It's a projected economic impact of well over $1.3 billion. Houston will welcome visitors from over 100 countries here to cheer on the world's best soccer players.
"They'll be spending money, which then of course helps business owners who have mortgages, car notes, it just trickles out to neighboring communities," von Biedenfeld said.
Imagine packed restaurants and hotels booked at mass capacity. And don't forget about everyone else tuning in on TV. The 2018 World Cup in Russia had an average audience of 191 million people -- 1.1 billion tuned in to watch France beat Croatia in the final. That's a lot of eyes on Houston.
The energy in and out of NRG Stadium will be unlike anything Houston has ever experienced. It's the next step for a city that's proven time and time again that it can pack a stadium full of soccer fans and knows how to host the biggest events.
"When those fans are cheering in the city, we're going to have a huge injection of positive energy in the city and a huge injection of dollars," von Biedenfeld said.