A rising fire

As far as MLS goes, I’ve always been fascinated by the Chicago Fire.  Here’s a team that is in America’s third largest city.  A team that has, unsuccessfully some might say, used the designated player rule.  A team that has its own stadium and a great supporters group.  A team that even has, for MLS standards, tradition.

However, they never have broken through the way the LA Galaxy and New York Red Bulls have internationally.  They haven’t even come close to breaking through locally the way Seattle, Real Salt Lake, and Portland have. But, for what its worth, there have been murmurs about the team turning the corner.

The new schedule and playoff set-up helps them out.  If any team can take advantage of the new unballanced schedule, it is Chicago.  If any team can take advantage of only one division for playoff side, it is Chicago.  In fact, if last year’s playoff qualification were set up like this year’s, Chicago would have qualified.

The team has recently been linked to Rio Ferdinand –not the path I would travel, but if they want to compete with LA and New York internationally it’s not a bad path– and rumors of a sale of their sole stalwart, Marco Pappa, have been floating around for awhile.  Whether these are rumors or facts, these are signs of growth for a market that has stagnated since winning their last major trophy in 2006.

The newest news is simple.  It is not only the new jersey sponsor, but rather it is the marketing around it.  Chicago should be happy to have Quaker as a sponsor.  It is a big sponsor.  I would argue even bigger than Best Buy, their previous sponsor.  The viral video has been great, and the new jersey looks pretty good.

While Chicago will most likely compete for the US Open Cup this upcoming season, I would not bet on them as a strong competitor for either MLS Cup, CONCACAF Champions League, nor Supporters Shield.  Nevertheless, the marketing of the team seems to be improving drastically.  That is a step forward for the ownership, and for MLS.

Time for Chicago to move up to the big time.  As a city that has always seemed to have an inferiority complex to the bigger New York and LA, it’s time for Chicago footy fans to show that they can have a team as good –or better– than those two markets.

After all, this is the city of the Bulls, the Bears, the White Sox, the Cubs (okay maybe not the cubs) and, perhaps, they too deserve the attention of the public.


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