ATLANTA (AP) â€” The NFL's newest team won't play a game until 2002 and will probably have to wait much longer to become a Super Bowl contender.
But Houston will likely get an up-close look at the championship game just a couple of years after rejoining the pro football ranks.
The Texas city is the only contender for the 2004 Super Bowl, expected to be awarded this week when NFL owners gather in Atlanta for their annual fall meeting.
The NFL also will hear bids from Miami, Jacksonville and Oakland, vying for the 2005 game, and Detroit, the only bidder for 2006.
The owners began their three-day meeting Monday with committee sessions and a reception at a downtown hotel. The major issues will be addressed Tuesday and Wednesday, when all 31 owners get together.
In addition to three Super Bowls, the owners were expected to discuss a new scheduling format for realignment and the collective bargaining agreement.
The Houston Texans will enter the league in 2002 with an expansion team playing in a new retractable-roof stadium next to the famed Astrodome.
As part of his record $700 million expansion fee, Texans owner Bob McNair was promised a Super Bowl as soon as possible.
That will likely come at the end of the Texans' second season at $365 million Reliant Stadium, a 69,500-seat facility. Houston also hopes to join a regular Super Bowl rotation.
The city's only other NFL title game came in 1974, when Miami defeated Minnesota 24-7 at Rice Stadium.
The Houston City Council and Harris County Board of Commissioners have pledged a total of $600,000 in services to the NFL. The city also will provide use of the George R. Brown Convention Center and a planned convention center hotel.
``It's ours to lose,'' said Jordy Tollett, director of the city's department of contention and entertainment facilities.
Detroit doesn't have any competition, but NFL vice president Jim Steeg has questioned whether Detroit has enough hotel rooms for the event.
A bidder must line up commitments for 18,000 rooms within an hour's drive of the stadium, and 30,000-50,000 total rooms are needed.
The Detroit area played host to the Super Bowl in 1982, when San Francisco defeated Cincinnati 26-21 at the suburban Pontiac Silverdome.
Greg Bowens, a spokesman for Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer, said the area has added hotel space since then.
``We think that we can answer the call in 2006,'' Bowens said. ``The mayor is determined to work real hard to make this happen.''
The '82 Super Bowl took place in a snowstorm, which did not hamper play inside the Silverdome but did put a damper on parties and travel. The 2006 game would be at the new Ford Field, a domed stadium set to open in downtown Detroit in 2002.
Jacksonville and Oakland, on the other hand, are seeking their first title games.
The Oakland bid received a blow last week when the stadium's governing body rejected a privately financed Super Bowl.
Jacksonville is trying to become one of the smallest metropolitan areas to play host to a Super Bowl.
The NFL is planning to realign in 2002 when Houston joins as the 32nd team.
As a precursor to that decision, the owners could vote on what sort of scheduling format to have if each conference has four divisions with four teams apiece.
In May, the owners also considered expanding the playoff field to 14 teams and using a seeding system that would make it easier for stronger clubs to advance to the Super Bowl.
The owners and players have discussed extending the collective bargaining agreement beyond its 2004 expiration date to coincide with the lucrative television contract.
Gene Upshaw, director of the NFL Players Association, said in January that he hoped to add another year or two to the current deal.