By Adnan Basic
The Chicago sports scene is quite bleak at the moment. The Bulls are tanking, and are only focused on the future. The Blackhawks have been unexpectedly poor this season, and look to be missing out on the playoffs for the first time in a long time.
The White Sox and Cubs are still in the dog days of spring training, and won’t start playing regular season games until the end of March.
However, there is one team in the city that could provide a fresh spark to Chicago.
The Chicago Fire shined in 2017 and rose in prominence in the Chicagoland area. The team finished 3rd in the regular season, putting them in the playoffs for the first time in half a decade.
It was disappointing run, as they were bounced in the first round, but the loss could become quite the learning experience. However, the year was still a success in many ways.
The Fire saw a massive increase in popularity, selling out some home games while also having some matches broadcasted on ESPN. This was helped when Chicago was awarded the MLS All-Star game, bringing the best players the league has to offer to the Windy City. The All-Stars faced world powerhouse Real Madrid at Soldier Field, with more than 60,000 fans in attendance.
One massive reason for that is the signing of Bastian Schweinsteiger. Signed from Manchester United in March of 2017, the transfer immediately put the Fire into the limelight. Schweinsteiger was a household name across the planet, starring for club giants Bayern Munich and captaining a Germany team that won the World Cup in 2014.
Schweinsteiger’s arrival to Chicago was a big deal, with fans flooding O’Hare Airport just to welcome him to Chicago. In the offseason, he signed a contract extension with the club, keeping him with the Fire for at least another year.
Keegan Kaczor, a senior IMC major at Roosevelt, feels the German is key to the Fire’s success this season.
“The team isn’t the best, and I’m not sure they’ll win a lot of games. However, they do have one very promising player in Bastian Schweinsteiger, and it should be fun to watch the German this year,” Kaczor said.
The most interesting thing about the upcoming Fire season is something that won’t even take place on a soccer field. The club announced that they signed an exclusive deal with ESPN+, a streaming site that will be available soon. This means that Fire games won’t be broadcasted on television, but will only be available to fans that pay a monthly fee for access. It is a bold and unprecedented move, which could shape the long term future of the Fire.
James Bridget Gordon is the editor for HotTimeInOldTown, a leading site for Fire analysis, and believes this is a risk worth taking for Chicago.
“The Fire solve a lot of problems with the ESPN+ deal. They’re not liable to get bumped like they were on CSN/NBC Sports (usually for baseball or hockey). So fans will ultimately have more reliable access to game streams than in the past. I think almost everyone will come out on top here,” Gordon said.
The season hasn’t got off to the best start, as the Fire did lose their first game of the year, falling 3-2 to Kansas City. However, there are plenty of games left to go, and this Fire team needs to gel after bringing in a whole host of new signings.
“Hopefully, at the least, they can make it back to the playoffs,” freshman management major Marty Robinson said. “Getting past the first round would be even better.”
Once the team develops chemistry, the sky’s the limit. Come the end of the year, Chicago could be preparing to host yet another championship parade.