Recently Chicago Fire President Julian Posada met with members of Section 8 Chicago at the monthly board meeting. Unfortunately I wasn't able to make it out like I intended to try to do, but Sam Stejskal, a writer for MLS, was there and wrote a roundup article about the meeting. We talked about this meeting last week, but only glossed over the Open Cup situation the Fire find themselves in. We're slated to host the Colorado Rapids in April, yet we're allegedly not going to be hosting the game at Toyota Park!
Join me after the jump for more information.
Apparently the Fire front office is worried that only 2-4 thousand people will show up for the match. Supposedly hosting that many at Toyota Park wouldn't be a great from a monetary perspective, so they're looking at other options. Locations that apparently have been tossed include Notre Dame, Bradley, Depaul, and North Central College. On the upside, at least they're trying to use a natural grass pitch instead of some nasty turf, but seriously Julian? Notre Dame? Bradley out in Peoria? If you think only 2-4 thousand will show up in Bridgeview, how many do you think are really going to show up in Peoria? More importantly, do we just see the Open Cup as an annoying, costly tournament? Do we plan on playing the game to the fullest, or are we merely just trying to get out of this while losing as little money as possible?
Now I've become curious how many fans need to show up for the game to be interesting enough for us to play it at home. This reminds me of when the USSF would play "home" games in California because the visitors would draw enough fans to make it fiscally worth it. While I understand the love of money, I'd rather see us let Colorado host this game if they're willing to play it in their home park. We obviously don't care about the game, so let's at least give the hosting opportunity to someone who might care a bit more.
We've won 4 Open Cups in our history and more than any other team in Major League Soccer. I know they don't draw as many fans as MLS games, but the competition is a big part of our history. I know this is a play-in game of sorts, and thus has a harder time drawing fans. What I don't understand is deciding from the outset that it won't be at Toyota Park, and not even trying to market the game. What does it say to the team and the fans when you host a Cup game in Peoria? What does it say when the tournament is about a month away and the location is TBD? To me it says you don't care about the tournament. You know what, I even understand that. It means more fixtures in an already congested schedule, it doesn't draw a lot of fans and money until the later stages, and to be fair, we'd be a pretty large underdog to pull it off this year. You can come up with plenty of reasons to not play in the tournament. Instead we're considering playing it off at a college so we can save a few bucks.
To me, the Open Cup is an important tradition in American. The tournament has ran for nearly a century. As leagues popped up, succeeded, failed, and were ran into the ground, the Open Cup (by various names) managed to exist. When soccer in America was all but wiped out, the Open Cup went on. I understand it might not mean much to MLS teams nowadays, and that's fine. All I ask is you don't treat it like a two bit competition by trying to rent out a tiny field such as DePaul's. I was looking forward to seeing as many Open Cup games as possible this year. Now I have to wonder if I'll even get to see one, because apparently we'll move a game elsewhere if we can save some cash.
I love my Fire, and I want to see all of our home games. I'm disappointed that the Open Cup is being scoffed at. At the end of the day I'd rather see some teams be honest and just decline to play in the tournament. The Sounders are pretty good about coming out and treating it like a real tournament. Apparently the Fire aren't up for that year, and sadly we're often not alone in that regard. Be respectful of what most would agree is the most historic tournament in domestic soccer and either treat it like a legitimate tournament, or leave it to the "amateur" teams.