News broke yesterday that a deal is in the works to make Soldier Field will be the home of the 2020 Chicago Fire. It will take the club back to its original digs in the heart of the city.
The board motions and it carries unanimously and the matter is adopted. Pending finalization of the lease agreement, the Chicago Fire will play at Soldier Field next year. #cf97— Paul Tenorio (@PaulTenorio) September 11, 2019
Coincidentally, this was the second time that Soldier Field had made the news this week- the highest attended game during the international break was in the United States was not any of the USMNT games or even Mexico vs. Argentina, but Chivas and Club America in a friendly on Sunday night. By highest attendance, we of course mean they sold out.
When I see the images below, I’m immediately overcome with bittersweet emotion. I see these pictures and I am lifted into daydreams about one day hosting an MLS Cup with red (safe) smoke firing, Fire scarves being displayed and being able to hear the roar of the stadium down Lake Shore. I take pride in the fact we can do this in Chicago, that futbol culture, when presented the opportunity, is vibrant and energizing here. Ask anyone in the downtown during the day on Sunday-this game put the city on notice.
Club America and Chivas de Guadalajara fans packed out the 61,500-capacity Soldier Field in Chicago last night... for a friendly pic.twitter.com/PSdE46cJLA— B/R Football (@brfootball) September 9, 2019
The hunger is there. The people are there. The passion is there (outside of the reported incidents between fans, which we should never mistake passion for violence).
It exists, but then the other shoe drops. We won’t see that at a Fire match next year. We may not even see that in the next five years. Most of the people in the stands during the friendly on Sunday, during the Gold Cup Final this summer, the USMNT friendlies and tournament games played in Chicago won’t be there next year. Why is that?
Many folks on over the Twittersphere have suggested the Fire “sign a Mexican-American and they will come” or “all they need to do is win and they’ll start seeing more fans pour in.” OK. Those things will certainly help, but what we saw on Sunday night was not just proof of appealing to many different demographics of fan. It was not just two historically successful clubs coming together. It was something greater.
There’s a recipe to get there that combines success, players who connect with their city and their club, teams that demand the attention of their town and a community of supporters who create something from the ground up that is sustained year after year. Pull the levers whatever way you want; little more of this, little less of this, but in the end it’s a club that creates a unique and authentic culture, not buys it, not steals it, not tries to manufacture it. You build it.
I don’t expect the Chicago Fire to sellout Soldier field, and I am not dismissing any of the people who believe any of the steps above will help do that, but what we saw on Sunday night set the bar. Every year, the Chicago Fire should be building, through success and players and community and culture, what we saw Sunday night in a unique way. I don’t want to hear about ESPN+ viewership numbers, I don’t want to hear about xG or how we flipped 50k in TAM for another draft pick. I want to hear how we get to Sunday night.