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Fire (finally) establish link with Saint Louis FC

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Chicago hopes player-development relationship with USL Pro club can serve as bridge from Academy to first team

If the Chicago Fire were concerned that the lack of a connection with a USL Pro team were the spark in the powder-keg atmosphere of Friday evening's NY Red Bull town hall meeting - the two teams were, as of Friday morning, the final pair not to announce one of the mandated partnerships - they can rest easy. Earlier today, the club announced the long-rumored player-development affiliation with new USL Pro club Saint Louis FC.

"We're excited to partner with Saint Louis FC as our USL PRO affiliate," Chicago Fire Technical Director Brian Bliss is quoted as saying on chicago-fire.com. "This is a great opportunity for our players to gain valuable playing time and continue their development in a competitive environment. St. Louis is a city with a rich soccer history and a tradition of producing talented players, and will allow our organization to broaden our reach in the Midwest."

The deal was a long time in the making. In the paranoid, fractious atmosphere following the worst season in team history, fingers were pointed at the executive suite for the deal not getting done. Now, though, come whispers that the fly in the ointment was Sporting Kansas City's discomfort at ceding mindshare and scouting knowledge of a hotbed in their own state to the Fire. Whatever the holdup was, it has apparently been resolved, because the deal is finally completed.

Hot (Time) take

The Men in Red have experienced first-hand the cost of not having a place where younger pros can find their feet - Victor Pineda, anyone? Pineda, the club's first Homegrown Player, languished on the bench after signing at 17, playing 10 half-hearted reserve matches a year. Unsurprisingly, he didn't grow the way anyone anticipated. Given some playing time during his loan to Indy11 last year, he blossomed into an integral part of a pretty solid midfield.

It will be interesting to see which of the Fire's young players will make the trek down I-55. If I'm SLFC, I'm on the phone right now whispering about how Collin Fernandez will surely start for us.

Complete side note: Is it just me, or is the 'Saint Louis FC' styling a little different? Is there some cool explanation? I've always seen 'St. Louis' (in proper settings) and St Louis (in less-formal settings. Am I straight trippin'?