FIFA delegation makes last stop in Houston

Gulati, Kinnear, Ching on hand to greet World Cup bid inspectors

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Photo Credit: 
Thomas B. Shea / ISI

The FIFA delegation here to inspect the United States’ bid to host the 2018 or 2022 World Cup visited Reliant Stadium and the George R. Brown Convention Center on Thursday as the final stop of the presentation made by the U.S. Soccer Federation.

“All requirements and expectations should be met,” Chilean Football Federation President and delegation head Harold Mayne-Nicholls said.  “After four days of inspection in the United States and having visited five candidate cities, we have been able to collect all the necessary facts and figures to submit our report.”

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Reliant Stadium could host World Cup matches, and the George R. Brown Convention Center would potentially serve as the International Broadcast Center for the World Cup. While Houston was merely a component of the total U.S. bid presentation, the city went out of its way to put its best foot forward to impress the delegation and US Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati.

“The visit went great, and we were told by the FIFA officials we were the most organized in terms of the process and Houston as a city has great venues,” Houston bid committee chairman George DeMontrond said. “But this was not about us competing with other U.S. cities; this was about us helping the U.S. get the bid for 2018 or 2022.”

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Houston Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear, forward Brian Ching, and Houston Rockets center Yao Ming greeted the delegation at the Convention Center, while Houston Texans owner Bob McNair and Mayor Annise Parker played host at Reliant Stadium. 

“I love the city and the reception we had at the stadium showed the city is passionate about the game,” Gulati noted. “We have a terrific team here building a stadium for the Dynamo, and I think in all ways Houston has become a soccer city and that it wouldn’t have been the case a decade ago.”

DeMontrond believes strongly that both locations would serve as ideal venues for the World Cup and that Houston would be a great host if the U.S. were to be awarded one of the World Cups in December.

“We have a population that is gung-ho for soccer, and it is a diverse population,” DeMontrond explained.  “We are an international city that is just poised to get more avid about soccer, and it would leave a legacy as a more popular sport after the cup has come and gone.”

Dwain Capodice is a contributor to MLSsoccer.com.  Questions or Comments can be sent via email to dwaincapodice@gmail.com.