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Chicago Fire keeping getting younger, signing 21-year-old Bulgarian winger Stanislav Ivanov

More than half of the Fire’s 30 man roster is now 23 years old or younger

Stanislav Ivanov playing for PFC Levski Sofia
PFC Levski Sofia

After nearly a year of rumors swirling around the transfer, the Chicago Fire announced today they’ve acquired 21-year-old Bulgarian winger Stanislav Ivanov. He joins from Levski Sofia in Bulgaria, where he’s spent the last six seasons as a pro.

He’s under contract with the Fire through the 2023 season, with a club option for the 2024 season.

“As we continue to build a strong and competitive roster for 2021 and beyond, it was important that we added another talented, young attacking player,” Fire Sporting Director Georg Heitz said in a statement. “Stanislav is a dynamic and hard-working winger who fits our style of play extremely well. We expect him to be an integral part of the team moving forward.”

Ivanov turned pro at 16, and since then, he’s racked up 13 goals and 15 assists in 85 appearances for his club. That includes five appearances in the UEFA Europa League.

He also fits a very specific pattern of recent signings for the Fire. Since Heitz took over a year ago, he’s talked about the need to reduce the age of the Fire’s roster. Since August, the Fire have added several players under 23—Colombian central defender Carlos Terán, Nigerian striker Chinonso Offor, Ecuadorian right back Jhon Espinoza, and now Ivanov.

Two of Heitz’s first signings of 2020—attacker Ignacio Aliseda and left back Miguel Navarro—are also both under 23. The Fire are hoping to find hidden gems in this group, but this puts a lot of pressure on head coach Raphael Wicky to mold these prospects into quality MLS players. There are now 16 players under 23 years old on the team’s 30 man roster for 2021.

Like many of his new teammates in Chicago, Ivanov is a youth international for his country. He’s made 10 appearances internationally for Bulgaria’s U-21 side where he scored four goals, including a brace in a 3-0 win against Poland on Nov. 15, 2019. The winger was recently rumored to be signing Galatasaray in Turkey before joining the Fire.

Ivanov will occupy an international slot on the Fire’s 2021 roster. The Fire are currently well over the limit of eight international players on the roster, but Heitz said recently several players are close to receiving their U.S. Green Cards, which would mean they’d qualify as domestic players, freeing up those international slots.