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Roundtable: Hosting the All-Star game & the new road greys

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Hot Time’s writers speculate about MLS motives in hosting showcase event at Soldier Field

MLS: All-Star Press Conference
City Hall knows we exist! That’s ... something.
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

The All-Singing, All-Dancing MLS All-Star Game

James Bridget Gordon: The 2017 MLS All-Star Game will held in Chicago. Holding it at Soldier Field makes sense but is also _fascinating_ as it concerns Toyota Park. Also, the league is acknowledging we exist. It's a lot to take in!

Sean Spence: Wait, we exist? I thought we were all data in an elaborate simulation - that’s what Elon Musk told me.

John Carollo III: I think this is a prelude to a sale. Prove the city's interest in MLS and then cash out. Might also be setting up to get a big name, but that doesn't negate the sale discussion. Otherwise, it's great that Don-Senpai noticed us. It's nice to be noticed. Might be a sign of good things ahead.

Mike Tooley: I think the decision to have the game at Soldier Field in Chicago makes perfect sense for MLS and there is really no risk in doing so. It is a solid venue that has hosted plenty of soccer games before and it obviously has a much larger capacity than Toyota Park.

Jack Kelly: I too think that hosting the game at Soldier Field makes sense. It's on the Loop, which opens up the rest of downtown Chicago to any fans that may be traveling, and it also seats three times as many people. I do think that not hosting it at Bridgeview is a bit of a snub to the most passionate Fire fans. Traveling into the city from the Southwest suburbs isn't something that is easy for everyone, and I'm afraid that this is going to result in some of the Fire's best fans missing out on the game.

Sean Spence: All due respect, the Fire’s best fans have traveled a lot farther for a lot less - remember that the club played in freaking Naperville for a year! - but most of those folks have been driven away by horrible results, clumsy front office miscues, and the reversal of the early Fire’s expressions of transparency and fan engagement.

Mike Tooley: Many people will be trying to read between the lines of what this means - i.e., are they trying to entice a new buyer like John mentioned, or get the city of Chicago involved to help with a new stadium. It might be boring, but maybe the just decided to have the game here because it's one of the biggest markets in the US and has successfully hosted big games before. It might provide a boost for the Fire but it also might not. There are a ton of people that go to summer friendlies at Soldier Field for the big European clubs but that doesn't mean they are going to go out to Bridgeview to watch the MLS Fire.

John Carollo III: On the topic of Toyota Park, it's not that bad, but it was the last of its kind before teams were getting stadiums in the city. At the time it was a huge accomplishment to get a SSS, but now it's all about cool looking downtown stadiums in a great location. This appears to mark MLS's stance on Harlem Bridge, but there isn't enough wiggle room in the city to get anything built well.

James Bridget Gordon: I'm inclined to agree with John, for what it’s worth. I don't know for sure if that's what's happening, but if selling the Fire in the not-too-distant future is on the table, giving them the ASG would be a good way to put them in the shop window. It’s like playing a fringe squad member a lot in January cup matches to attract buying interests.

As for stadium speculation, I think it's significant that Rahm was part of the ASG discussions and was present at the press conference announcing it this week. I would think that the possibility of a new stadium in city limits likely came up in casual conversation, at least, and his involvement in the ASG deal indicates that he might be willing to do business with MLS in a way that Daley wasn't when the Fire were first looking for a permanent home.

Mike Tooley: I hope that you are right, but I have been let down too many times before in regards to anything Fire related. I imagine they would be pushing for a stadium within the city limits, because why wouldn't they? But if the ASG has anything to do with a sale, it would have to be happening soon - like this summer or next off season - because the hype around MLS ASG is not going to last very long. I would love to get on CTA to go to matches instead of making the bi-monthly pilgrimage to Bridgeview.

John Carollo III: Mayor Daley hated the Fire for some reason.

James Bridget Gordon: Mayor Daley hated fun. Ask basically any local musician or music promoter who's tried to work in this city since the early 90s.

John Carollo III: True.

James Bridget Gordon: To be clear, I'm not necessarily arguing in favor or against selling the team. I have been less than impressed with Andrew Hauptman, and obviously I have a dim view of some of the folks who he has hired for front office staff, but I'm also not exactly with the Hauptman Out crowd. I've learned the hard way that when it comes to bad owners of sports teams that one should be careful what they wish for, and that it can always get worse.

Mike Tooley: I get it. I’m just thinking if im a prospective buyer, how much quality insight can I get from the ASG and All-Star week? If you are a potential buyer, are you just assuming you will move into Soldier Field while a location is developed for your own stadium within the city? Or are you going to stay in Bridgeview? If you are staying in Bridgeview, then the ASG really is no way to gauge the interest in the Fire. Like I mentioned, there are going to be a ton of people that just go to this game to see whatever European club comes. It is certainly interesting to entertain all of these ideas and theories.

James Bridget Gordon: I would assume Rahm would be hanging around during All-Star Week, so any potential buyers would be able to get a quick word about possible other locations

Sean Spence: Yes, exactly, and that’s why Emanuel’s involvement is a sea change for the Fire. I can’t remember a time when the official position from the Mayor’s office was anything other than ‘pound sand, soccer idiots.’ So this is very different.

James Bridget Gordon: If the ASG packs out well or even sells out, and a potential buyer (and Rahm) sees 50k + turning out for an MLS exhibition game, I would assume conversations would turn toward the enticing possibility of 20-30k crowds turning out a couple times a month at some TBD location on the West Side or something.

This is the image of the Fire’s secondary kit going around the internet - we assume it will look very much like this.

The kit leak

John Carollo III: The first pic leaked was terribly pixelated and I hated it, but seeing the slight intricacies in the design make me appreciate it a bit more (I like the slate/gray-scaling they did). But on the other hand, I hate that it's grey. Not exactly hate, I guess, but I think it's a dumb color for a professional team. We have a training kit that's grey, but that's good for training. This just seems a bit too amateur to me.

James Bridget Gordon: I think it looks a bit too much like a Sporting KC kit to me.

Mike Tooley: I like it. I've always kind of liked a more neutral kit that doesnt jump out at you. I think this does its job and will be a good change from the classic red when they wear them.

Sean Spence: We’re grading on a pretty serious curve here, because recent Fire kits have tended to underwhelm - I think I titled the kit leak story from 2013 something like ‘Puke Funnel.’ (Sorry, it was actually 2014. But definitely ‘Puke Funnel.’) So this isn’t that - it isn’t offensive or stupid or weird. It’s just … grey. So, uh, meh.