World Cup: Today South Africa; Tomorrow Houston

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The world's biggest sporting event might be coming to a stadium near you, that is, if you want it here more than everyone else. A reception was held at City Hall Thursday to announce that Houston is holding the top spot in the bidding to host the FIFA World Cup in 2018 or 2022.

Houstonians were encouraged to go online at www.gousabid.com and vote for the city of Houston after the bid was announced a few weeks ago, Mayor Annise Parker said.

"I'm proud to announce that Houston is in the number-one U.S. spot," Parker said. "There are 18 American cities bidding for the cup, (and) we are ahead of soccer giants like Seattle and Los Angeles...we want you to keep Houston number one."

More than 70 U.S. cities began bidding to be part of the U.S.A. bid, and throughout the selection process, Houston continued to rise to the forefront, George DeMontrond, chairman of the Houston County World Cup Bid Committee, said.

"On December 2, we will know...and rest assured, we will do everything in our power to bring the World Cup here to Houston," DeMontrond said.

Of course, you can still make a big difference by going online and voting for Houston, Harris County-Houston Sports Authority Director Janis Schmees said.

The U.S. wants to get a million votes, Schmees said, and we feel like we can get a million right here in Houston alone.

"This is the most coveted world sporting event, the largest out there, everybody wants it," Schmees said. "Our competition is fierce, and so we want to show our compelling story, which we have here in the U.S., but we also want to show the enthusiasm."

The World Cup is huge. Think 32 countries and billions of people, all for one game. No other sporting event conjures up as much worldwide passion and fanaticism as these games do.

Houston Dynamo President Oliver Luck, who spent 10 years in Europe professionally and experienced two World Cups, said that when the nations play their games, their productivity drops to zero.

"The final match, July 11, will be seen by over 1 billion people on television across the globe," Luck said. "It's not an event that has any political connotations, or religious connotations -- it's a sporting event, it doesn't really matter at the end of the day, but a billion people will share a common experience, and we would love nothing more than to have that common experience here in Houston."

Hosting an event with such international appeal only seems fitting for a city with such an international presence, evident not only in its industry, but in the population that calls Houston home.

The Houston Dynamo are a microcosm of this international flavor.

Just on the current roster alone, there are players from Canada, Mexico, Ghana, Jamaica, and Zimbabwe, Luck said.

Just in the short four-year existence of the Dynamo, there have been players from El Salvador, South Africa, Canada, Venezuela, Scotland, England, Argentina, Mexico, Sierra Leone,Trinidad and Tobago, and from the Ivory Coast, Luck said.

"I don't think there's a sport anywhere that's being played in the U.S. where we have such a strong showing of international support," Luck said. "That really shows me what kind of a city (it) is because Houston is such a welcoming, such a diverse, such a tolerant city that folks from all over the world can come here and make a living."

"It is absolutely critical that we continue the pressure," Parker said. "That we continue to spread the word that Houston is the number one U.S. bid city to host the 2018 or the 2022 World Cup."

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