Leaders of the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority announced June 11 that East Downtown, also known locally as EaDo, has been chosen as the locale for the 2026 FIFA World Cup Fan Festival as city officials prepare to host the tournament.

Fanfest will be a 38-day event held from June 11-July 19.

What you need to know

EaDo is home to the city's two soccer teams—Houston Dynamo and Houston Dash. Both the men's Major League Soccer club and the National Women's Soccer League play at Shell Energy Stadium, located at 2200 Texas Ave. in East Downtown.

According to the Dynamo website, when the stadium opened in May 2012, it became the first soccer-specific stadium in Major League Soccer to be located in a city's downtown district.

While the stadium will not be the site of the World Cup tournament, Chris Canetti, Harris County-Houston Sports Authority executive and president of the Houston 2026 World Cup Host Committee, said it is in line to be a potential practice spot and base camp for visiting players. Other fields that could serve as practice spots could include those at the University of Houston and Rice University. The World Cup games will be hosted at NRG Stadium.

Other Houston destinations located in EaDo include Graffiti Park, the 8th Wonder Brewery and Warehouse Live.

What they are saying

HCHSA CEO Janis Burke said in an April 12 interview with Community Impact that she was anticipating the fan festival to be in East Downtown and wanted to see the World Cup create a legacy in what she called Houston's next "up-and-coming place."

"Our fan fest, rather than be at Discovery Green or George R. Brown [Convention Center] like it normally is with these big events, we are looking to make it this cool, neighborhood block party feel, which will also put some money into the EaDo area," she said.

Brian Ching, a former professional soccer player for the Houston Dynamo and owner of Pitch 25, a local beer garden in EaDo, said he is excited to see the World Cup put a spotlight on the district.

"One of my favorite things about going to a World Cup match was seeing the people from all over the world congregating in one area to have fun, enjoy and celebrate the sport of soccer," he said. "That's such a meaningful experience that Houstonians are going to be lucky to experience in their own city."

Also of note

During a June 11 news conference, HCHSA leaders also announced what facility updates will need to occur over the next two years for NRG Stadium to be ready to host games in 2026.

Renovations include modifying the suites and making adjustments to the field to accommodate for the wider soccer dimensions. However, the most noticeable change includes installing a grass field, which is required by FIFA for all World Cup matches.
  • Stadium renovations will begin in summer 2025.
  • Suite modifications will begin after the Houston Rodeo in 2026.
  • The grass field will be installed in early May 2026.
Canetti said the city of Houston will also start to see changes in safety, security and transportation.

More details

Although no specific changes were shared during the presentation, Houston Mayor Pro Tem Martha Castex-Tatum said city officials are preparing for the influx of people the tournament will bring.

"We have all of our teams working together," she said. "So HPD, all of our transportation stakeholders, are meeting to make sure that the visitors that come to the city of Houston know what's available to them. We also want to make sure that it is not only a great experience for the visitors but that it does not impact the quality of life for Houstonians. There is going to be a lot of communication."

Canetti said the transportation committee is required to turn in their plan for the FIFA World Cup by the end of 2024.

Looking ahead

The first match of the 2026 FIFA World Cup kicks off June 11 of that year at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. Houston will see its first of seven matches June 14. The following games will occur on the June 17, 20, 23 and 26, with two knock-out rounds June 29 and July 9.