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World Cup 2026: Who plays at NRG Stadium?

Opened in 2002, NRG Stadium is the home of the Houston Texans, who play in the NFL. Although American football is what the stadium is most used for, football matches have been played here since May 8, 2003, when the United States played Mexico in front of 69,582 spectators. NRG Stadium will host matches in the upcoming 2026 FIFA World Cup.

NRG Stadium
Houston Texans play their home NFL matches at NRG Stadium – Photo by Icon Sport

Houston Texans

The first event that took place at the stadium was a pre-season match between the Miami Dolphins and Houston Texans. The Miami Dolphins won 24-3 in front of 69,432 people.

Since then, the venue has hosted regular season and play-off matches for the Houston Texans, who are the youngest franchise competing in the NFL. It took until January 7, 2012, for the Texans to reach their first play-off match. They beat the Cincinnati Bengals 31-10 in front of a crowd of 71,125, which is the largest crowd ever for a Texans game at NRG Stadium.

The stadium has hosted two Super Bowls in 2004 and 2017. In 2004, the New England Patriots defeated the Carolina Panthers, 32-29. Memorably, in 2017, the New England Patriots beat the Atlanta Falcons 34-28, which saw the Patriots achieve the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history. The Patriots were losing 28-3, however, they came back to win in overtime, which was also the first time in Super Bowl history.

NRG Stadium - Tom Brady
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady helped his team win the Super Bowl in 2017 at NRG Stadium – Photo by Credit Field/Icon Sport

Football Matches at NRG Stadium

NRG Stadium has hosted matches in the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2005, 2007, 2009, 2019, 2021 and 2023. In the upcoming Copa América that will take place this summer, NRG Stadium will host three matches, including Mexico against Jamaica and Colombia against Paraguay.

Mexico and United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) have played friendly matches and FIFA World Cup Qualifiers here. Pre-season club friendlies, including the likes of Manchester City and Real Madrid, have taken place at NRG Stadium.

On July 28, 2010, Manchester United beat the MLS All-Stars 5-2 in front of 70,728 fans. Seven years later, the Manchester derby was held at NRG Stadium, with Manchester United defeating Manchester City in the International Champions Cup with 67,401 people in attendance.

For the 2026 FIFA World Cup, NRG Stadium will be renamed ‘Houston Stadium’ to comply with FIFA’s stadium naming requirements. The stadium will host seven games over the course of the tournament, including a Round of 32 match and a Round of 16 match, which will take place on Independence Day.

Other Uses

NRG Stadium is also regularly used for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Since February 2003, the stadium has hosted Rodeo events every year in March. These events include exhibitions, rodeo competitions, live music and livestock auctions, making it one of the most well-known events that regularly takes place in the United States. On March 17, 2019, 80,108 people attended the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, which is the record attendance at NRG Stadium.

College football and basketball take place at NRG Stadium, including the Texas Bowl and Texas Kickoff. The high-profile motorsport event, Monster Jam, has taken place at this stadium for the last 18 years. WrestleMania 25 in 2009 saw 72,744 attend the NRG Stadium to watch the eight fights on the card, including the likes of Triple H and Randy Orton.

Taylor Swift, U2, Guns N’ Roses, One Direction and The Rolling Stones have also performed at NRG Stadium.

Retractable Roof and Capacity

A key feature of NRG Stadium is the retractable roof designed by Populous (then HOK Sport). The roof was designed to keep the venue cool and allow light in, so that natural grass could grow during the Texan summer, which experiences high temperatures.

The capacity of the stadium is 72,220, however, it can be expanded up to 80,000 for landmark events, as was the case for the aforementioned Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo in 2017, where over 80,000 people attended.

NRG Stadium Fun Facts

  • NRG Stadium was originally called Reliant Stadium from 2002 to 2014.
  • Real grass will be installed for the 2026 World Cup to replace the artificial surface currently in place.
  • The overall construction cost of NRG Stadium was approximately $450 million.
  • The stadium’s retractable roof was designed to make the stadium function as an open-air stadium while maintaining the feel of an indoor facility.
  • A hockey match between the Dallas Stars and the Phoenix Coyotes was scheduled to be played on September 23, 2011, but the logistics of making an ice rink proved to be too costly.
  • The Houston Texans mascot is called ‘Toro’ and is dressed as a blue bell who energises the crowd before every NFL match. Toro has been the mascot since NRG Stadium’s first NFL match in 2002.

Will Murray

Freelance football journalist. Experience writing for When Saturday, Comes, Goalkeeper.com, Elite Scholars and Total Football Analysis. Recently finished an MA in Sport Journalism at the University of Brighton. Long-time season ticket holder at the two-time European Champions Nottingham Forest.

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