We’ll know by tomorrow if Houston is still in the running to host the World Cup in 2022.
Houston’s soccer, business and political communities will join the rest of the international soccer community in anticipation as FIFA announces the host nations for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup on Thursday in Zurich, Switzerland. Former President Bill Clinton, one of many powerful members of the Go USA Bid Committee, will travel to Switzerland to speak on behalf of the United States during the final presentation as an honorary chairman of the bid committee.
A decision Thursday in favor of the United States would not automatically benefit Houston. A timetable hasn’t been set for winnowing the list of 18 U.S. cities in contention to host matches to between 10 and 12. But representatives of Houston are excited.
As far as infrastructure costs, Houston won’t have many, considering Reliant Stadium is set for major international sporting events, as evidenced when it held the 2004 Super Bowl. The 2011 NCAA Final Four is also set for Reliant.
U.S. bid committee members maintain that serving as a World Cup host city has an impact similar to hosting a Super Bowl.
Houston’s odds of serving as a host city appear high considering it was among the select cities U.S. Soccer presented to the FIFA inspection committee in September.
Obviously, the US has to be chosen as the host country, or the rest is moot. If that happens, then you have to like Houston’s chances, though of course anything can happen. I’m rooting for it to happen.
We can’t discuss an event like this without discussing economic projections:
Billions of dollars in revenue are at stake for U.S. Soccer. Moreover, according to an independent economic study cited often by the local bid committee, host cities would take in between $400 million and $600 million.
The stakes in Houston could be greater than $600 million if — along with Reliant Stadium’s hosting matches – the George R. Brown Convention Center were chosen for the international broadcast center. That would mean media from throughout the world would set up shop downtown for more than a month.
“When you look at it, the economics of an event of this magnitude are obviously tremendous,” said Robert Dale Morgan of the Houston Bid Committee. “But what it also presents to us is an opportunity to be in the eyes of the world. Houston is known internationally in many business circles. This would provide us yet another platform to be on the world stage.”
You know how I feel about these oft-cited but seldom-checked-after-the-fact studies. Having said that, I would expect the host city to get a pretty good boost from the event, just from the sheer number of visitors staying here for a couple of weeks. The 2010 event ran for a month, from the start of group play until the finals. Lots of people are going to need lots of hotel rooms, rental cars, places to eat, and so on. Maybe we’ll even have another light rail line or two built by then. Keep your fingers crossed.