Houston, Texas shifted into high gear to get some 2026 World Cup games. They grabbed Houston Dynamo President Chris Canetti to lead the way.
While Mexico and Canada settled on their game-site cities, the United States still has 17 potential World Cup game destinations.
The former Houston Dynamo executive Chris Canetti will ensure Houston remains a game site when that number drops to 10 in about two years.
Canetti, replaced by season sports executive John Walker on November 1, brings a wealth of sports experience. But what got the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority to hire him was his securing Manchester United to play the MLS All-Stars in 2010. That All-Star game drew 70,728, the fifth-largest attendance at the time to NRG Stadium, where Houston intends to host some 2026 World Cup games.
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That, among other things, is proof that Canetti has the soccer business down. He served a key role in getting the Dynamo in their BBVA Compass Stadium. Then he worked to get international events there, including World Cup qualifiers. He hooked the Dynamo up with USL team Rio Grande Valley FC Toros, and he got the Houston Dash going.
The 2026 World Cup expands to 48 teams, playing 80 games in all. Of that total, the United States will host 60 games. That gives Houston a good chance of securing some of them.
Houston has the capacity for World Cup games. NRG stadium features 71,795 seats, expandable to 72,220. The city already hosted two latter-day Super Bowls at NRG. (Metropolitan dynamics have changed radically since Super Bowl VIII in 1974 at Houston’s Rice Stadium.) The city knows how to get a lot of people to and from these games.
What the Sports Authority expects Canetti to do is once again call upon his connections, as he did in arranging the Manchester United game, to secure Houston as one of the host cities.
Those connections were built over decades in pro sports, starting with minor league baseball after college. He worked his way up in Double-A New Haven, Connecticut to become baseball’s youngest general manager at age 26.
Then he worked 13 seasons with the Houston Dynamo. He took over the top role in 2010. That makes him the longest tenured MLS president. With Canetti, the Dynamo embarked on seven trophy runs, four MLS conference titles and one U.S. Open Cup championship. He got the Sports Authority’s call, asking if he could figure out how to ensure Houston hosts some of the U.S.’s 60 games. His hiring says it all. The answer is yes.
Houston definitely lays claim to some 2026 World Cup game sites. It will be an exciting ride there. And the beautiful game will never be bigger than once the players hit the pitch in Texas.