In one corner you have Manchester United, the team nicknamed 'the Red Devils'. If you visit their website, they refer to themselves as ‘Reds'. The club has become much more than a simple team. Manchester United is constantly marketing the ‘brand'. Their annual trips to the United States are based around expanding the fan base and reaching out to new audiences. People who see them for the first time in Chicago will best recognize them the next time if they catch United in that heavily preferred red jersey.
In the other corner you have the Chicago Fire. Our hometown team has always worn bright red jerseys since their beginning in 1998. All of the Fire press materials refer to the team as 'The Men in Red'. Red is the international color for fire trucks. The very color of fire is red. The game is being held in Chicago. This is our city and Manchester United are our guests. As the visiting team, Manchester United should have to wear white. It is just important for the Chicago Fire to market their brand.
For a brief time period between 2003-2005, Puma was in charge of designing Chicago Fire jerseys. Someone at the company came up with the crazy idea that Chicago should get a third jersey. Here's what they created:
This one question brings up several issues of brand identity, marketing, and maximizing this event to its fullest potential. With that said, I'd like to suggest the Chicago Fire wear sky blue. Confused? Follow me after the break...
This beautiful tribute to the Chicago flag is immediately appreciated by soccer and non-soccer fans alike. You don't have to know the Chicago flag to love the classy look but it certainly helps. The logo for this website is based on the Chicago flag for a couple of different reasons with one of them being it's just such a great design. Our very first post went into the symbolism of each part of the flag.
The jersey itself was only worn for a couple of games during the 2005 season. Around that same time, MLS signed a new contract with Adidas to make them the exclusive provider of MLS uniforms so Puma was out. Adidas still planned on continuing the Chicago flag design but somewhere along the way, the idea was dropped by Adidas, MLS, or the Fire team itself. The Chicago flag jersey has not been worn since. Occasionally copies of the jersey will pop up on e-bay or Craigslist and the final price will be around $200 or $300 dollars. If you ever ask fans, front office members or anyone else about what happened to the jersey or why we don't have it now, it all plays out like Unsolved Mysteries. It's right up there with why isn't Ante Razov in the Ring of Fire and yet Lubos Kubik is.
I'll let people who want to talk about the past sort out those things. I'm here in the present to talk about the future. It's time to bring back the Chicago Fire flag jersey and there's no better game to start than with the Manchester United game.
The new jersey becomes a story in itself
When people are writing about the game, part of the focus will be on Chicago resurrecting/presenting a brand new jersey. The overseas writers may not know who Patrick Nyarko, Marco Pappa, or Gaston Puerari are but by golly those chaps can write about a new jersey based on Chicago's flag. Have Patrick Nyarko, Marco Pappa, and Gaston Puerari wearing the jerseys? That gets a picture in da stories. Have those three wearing the same Chicago Fire uniforms? Good luck. Stateside, there is an extra storyline too. The unveiling of uniforms always produces a story.
This is the World Football Challenge. Let's represent our city.
The World Football Challenge comes across as a weak attempt to make international exhibitions ‘count'. With that said, the Chicago Fire have bought into the premise and we should go ‘all-in'. The great comedians at Second City can tell you that to achieve greatness, you have to buy into the premise. What better way to go all-in for an international competition than to sport our city's colors? Our flag is highly reviewed, let's use this to our best advantage.
Manchester United is probably wearing red anyway.
Let's face it. This is a David vs. Goliath scenario. Manchester United is arguably the most popular club in the world. They have over 12,000,000 Facebook followers. The Chicago Fire just broke 50,000 a couple of days ago. Manchester United selects their cities for their tour and the clubs rejoice. If there is a competition between United States clubs to host the Red Devils, the clubs jump up and ask ‘What can we do to get you to play here?'. Let's not waste time arguing who should wear red. Let's wear our sky blue. Sky blue isn't exactly Manchester United's favorite color anyway.
Make the city our brand
The one big problem with wearing the flag jersey would be confusion for casual fans. Not only are the Chicago Fire playing at Soldier Field but they are wearing a different jersey? That is a point that would have to be addressed. Any attempt to bring back the flag jersey would have to be handled just right. My suggestion would be to make this jersey the jersey we wear for all away games, USOC games, and international exhibitions. This is Chicago. When you play us, you are playing the team that represents the land around Lake Michigan and Chicago River. You are playing the city that built Fort Dearborn in the middle of nowhere. You are playing the city that came out of the ashes of 1871. You are playing the city that put on the greatest show of the 19th century. You are playing the city that celebrated its 100th birthday by inviting the world to stop in and the world did. That's what our stars and stripes represent. There's almost 200 years of 'branding' that has gone into that look and identity. You couldn't buy that kind of civic imagery and automatic municipal pride if you wanted to. Let's take advantage and don't tell me we haven't done it before. A younger and wilder Logan Pause can tell you so. He wore it last time in Soldier Field against AC Milan. Let's see our captain wear it again on July 23rd vs. Manchester United. Bring it back and start wearing in all the time.