Former USMNT and MLS player DaMarcus Beasley spoke exclusively to 90min about his recent involvement with the Houston 2026 World Cup bid committee, highlighting the passion and unique culture of the city while reminiscing on his days as a player.
Beasley kicked off his club career with the Chicago Fire in 1999 during Major League Soccer’s early years. He went on to appear for PSV, Manchester City, Rangers, Hannover 96 and Pubela before returning to the United States with the Houston Dynamo to retire.
Beasley also featured in four FIFA World Cups with the United States men’s national team. Most notably, the former player remembers his first WC in 2002 as a 19-year-old traveling to Korea to face legends.
On and off the pitch, Beasley is a huge advocate for the growth of soccer in the United States as he hopes all players can experience what he did while playing for the Houston Dynamo.
How did you get involved with the Houston 2026 World Cup bid committee?
I got involved through Chris Canetti, who is the president of the Houston 2026 World Cup bid committee, and he was actually my president when I was with the Houston Dynamo. Canetti was the one that brought me to the team, so I’ve known him for a long time throughout my whole career. He is a great human being, and I have gotten to know him outside of soccer as well, so when he brought me in it was a no-brainer for me to join the board. To help Chris and bring the World Cup to Houston was an easy decision for me.
Obviously you’ve had an extensive playing around the world, Why does Houston stand out as a special football city and potential World Cup destination?
Oh where do I start? Houston is football. There is such a diverse culture, and such an immense passion. I’ve seen it before, when they filled the stadium with thousands of fans for Copa America Centenario years ago. The whole vibe of the city is soccer, and I think having the World Cup in Houston is going to continue to boost everything. It will boost soccer, and it will become a stronger place where you can enjoy the game and the atmosphere. Being in Houston in the NRG Stadium, it’s indescribable at times. I’ve been there as a spectator and as a player, and to imagine a World Cup game being played in that stadium with the fans, the passion, the singing and the chanting, it will be remarkable.
Do you think the growth of football in the United States through Major League Soccer will impact the World Cup atmosphere around the country?
Oh yeah, I think so. The whole world is watching the United States. You now hear and see important European players saying they want to come over and play in Major League Soccer and it’s because the game has grown so much. I started back in 1999, where there were only 10 MLS teams and now there are 27 with new stadiums and enormous fan bases. The growth of the game in this country is on a rapid pace, and Houston is one of those cities. I played there, and I know what the city can bring to a football match. I think Houston can be the pillar of World Cup football in 2026.
As a player, what is it like to experience a World Cup?
Obviously you try to embrace the World Cup and take as much as you can in, without thinking about playing as much. You want to enjoy it. I remember being in the WC for the first time, and standing in the line right before walking out to the stadium, and you hear the national anthem and you begin to think about everything that led you to that moment. Every soccer kid’s dream is to play in the WC, and being able to be there was amazing. It is something I will never forget. When I took a step back and realized what I was doing for myself and my country, it is something that I will keep with me always.
Favorite World Cup moment?
My first World Cup in 2002, I was the youngest in the team. I was 19 when I was selected, and turned 20 on the plane to Korea, which was really cool. Being able to be at that WC at a young age and start my first ever game. Playing against Portugal was special, because it was during their golden years with Luis Figo and Rui Costa all the big names, and then you had me: DaMarcus Beasley, the 20-year old American starting against these guys. Winning the match 3-2, for me was important.
We then went on to beat Mexico and that was exciting, but that first game was it for me. It was a dream come true. Now that we are getting into the World Cup in 2026, I think about these kids playing their first game and how amazing it would be if it was in Houston.