The FIFA World Cup is two years away. Here’s how Houston is preparing for the seven games it will host. – Houston Public Media

A model of the FIFA World Cup trophy was used as decoration during a press conference on June 11, 2024 to talk about preparations for the 2026 World Cup.

Patricia Ortiz / Houston Public Media

A mock-up FIFA World Cup trophy was used as decoration during a press conference on June 11, 2024 to talk about preparations for the 2026 World Cup.

East Downtown will be the destination for locals and internationals attending the 2026 FIFA World Cup, according to the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority.

Two years from Tuesday, the first match of the 2026 FIFA World Cup will take place in Mexico City. Chris Canetti is chairman of the authority’s Houston 2026 World Cup organizing committee and said more than 85,000 people will be in Mexico for the first match.

“And while this is happening in Mexico, thousands of people will be gathered here in Houston for our FIFA Fan Fest to kick off the celebration,” he said.

Three days later, Houston will play its first FIFA World Cup match. The city will host seven matches which will take place at the NRG Stadium. The Fan Fest, which will last 38 days, will likely take place in the downtown east side. Canetti added that they chose this part of town because of its bars, restaurants and culture.

“It’s part of the culture and tradition of football to watch games in groups,” he said. “…This work is ongoing and should be finalized, hopefully also by the end of this year.”

The sports authority is also working with soccer clubs Houston Dash and Houston Dynamo to secure Shell Energy Stadium as a training facility for players. Canetti said it will require at least four training facilities that will serve as bases for the teams.

Earlier this year, Canetti said NFL standards require NRG Stadium to be a 55-yard wide field. The World Cup will be closer to 73.

“We also need to make some changes to the suites to accommodate some FIFA hospitality regulations and requirements,” he said.

Renovations to the football fields are expected to take place in the summer of 2025. Modifications to the suites are expected to take place after the rodeo in 2026. Canetti said there will also eventually be a volunteer program that supports airports, hotels, stadiums and training facilities.

According to the Authority, the World Cup will have an economic impact equivalent to seven Super Bowls for Houston. Canetti said FIFA has already signed a contract with 37 local hotels for players, staff and press arriving from out of town, and officials estimate that more than $5,000 per night will be paid to the hotels during world Cup.

Mayor Pro Tem Martha Castex-Tatum was present at the press conference Tuesday. She said the city wanted to make sure it was doing its best.

“We have so many soccer fans in the city of Houston that, of course, the locals will appreciate it,” she said. “I hope they will be a part of the fan experience, I hope they will attend the games and I hope they will make our visitors feel welcome and show our Houston hospitality to everyone who will come to see us in 2026.”

Houston will also host several Copa America matches this summer. Chron reported that more than 85,000 people attended a warm-up match between Brazil and Mexico last weekend.