Chicago Fire's Comeback to Soldier Field - 2020 Games Schedule and Predictions
It was announced in October that the MLS’s Chicago Fire would return to Soldier Field for the 2020 season. The move marks the end of a 14-season run at SeatGeek Stadium in nearby Bridgeville and returns the Fire to its original home. As a team to watch, you won’t want to delay in finding cheap Chicago Fire tickets this season.
Return to Soldier Field
The Fire was one of Major League Soccer’s expansion franchises and was founded as the Chicago Fire Soccer Club in October 1997. From 1997 until 2006, the Fire called Soldier Field home before moving to the soccer-specific SeatGeek Stadium from 2006-2019. SeatGeek Stadium opened in 2006 and seats 20,000. It is also the home of the Chicago Red Stars of the NWSL and the Chicago Bliss of the Legends Football League.
The announcement of the team’s return to Soldier Field, incidentally, came on October 8, which was also the same day the team was founded back in 1997. For students of history, that date is also significant since it was the day that the entire city of Chicago burnt to the ground in 1871. The franchise was named in honor of the tragic event.
The Fire also had a brief period where they played home games at North Central College in Naperville. Soldier Field was being renovated so in 2002 and part of the 2003 season, the Fire’s home matches were played at North Central.
Over the past five seasons, the Fire has struggled. In four of those seasons, the team has finished no higher than 17th overall. Chicago finished the 2019 season 10-12-12, eighth in the Eastern Conference, and 17th overall. It was an improvement over the 2018 season which saw the Fire go 8-18-8 and end up 20th.
The Fire’s heyday was during the period when the team played its home games at Soldier Field. In fact, four of the team’s five trophies came during the Soldier Field era. The Fire won the 1998 MSL Cup and won three U.S. Open Cups between 1997 and 2006.
The franchise’s best finish over the past five seasons was in 2017 when the Fire went 16-11-7 to finish third overall and qualify for the Round of 16. Chicago would like to see more of that and with the change in venue comes a number of other changes all geared toward developing a winning franchise.
The Fire released a new badge as part of a rebranding effort in conjunction with its move to Soldier Field. The new badge is a mirrored image in which flames are turned upside down to create a crown. Again, the idea is to pay homage to the spirit of Chicago after the Great Fire of 1871.
In addition to the rebranding effort, the franchise was sold to Joe Mansueto who bought the team from Andrew Hauptman. The team name was changed as well and the franchise is now known as the Chicago Fire FC, an acknowledgment of global reach of the sport.
Chicago Fire Game Schedule 2020
The Fire will begin the 2020 season with a three-match road trip beginning the season at Seattle on March 1. The Sounders won the MLS Cup in 2019. They will face New England and Orlando City SC before returning to play their first home of the season on March 21.
Chicago will face the 2018 MLS Cup champion Atlanta at Soldier Field in a nationally televised match to kick off the home season. The Fire will play 17 home matches which includes a first-ever matchup with MLS expansion team Inter Miami FC on May 9. Nashville SC also debuts this season and will play in the Western Conference. The Fire will not face Nashville in 2020.
Fire 2020 Prediction
Chicago has missed the playoffs eight times in the past decade. They are not a favorite to win anything heading into the 2020 season. That said, the Fire could be one of the biggest surprises of the 2020 campaign. With all of the changes, the Fire appear ready to change their output on the pitch.
Consider that Chicago finished the 2019 season tied for third in the Eastern Conference in goal differential. The Fire was fifth-best in goal differential in the entire league and they will return F C.J. Sapong, the team’s leading goal scorer with 13.
The Fire have a new coach after they let Veljko Paunovic go after the 2019 season. Mansueto has not hired a new coach yet but should have one in place soon. The Fire also have a tremendous amount of roster flexibility this offseason. Three of the team’s designated players have contracts that expire giving the Fire the ability to acquire more talent.
Chicago’s season opener is an early test as they face off in Seattle. Nearly 70,000 fans attended last year’s MLS Cup at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. The Sounders are the early favorite to win the MLS Cup again.
Game 2 on the road is against New England, another 2019 playoff team. Then they play their home opener against Atlanta, another 2020 MLS Cup favorite. The Fire will find out if they are playoff-worthy early on as they face five additional 2019 playoff teams before the end of May.