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When MLS returns, what will the season look like?

Here’s Patrick McCraney on four Fire matches he hopes we still get to see

MLS: Chicago Fire at Seattle Sounders FC
Robert Berić celebrates after scoring against the Seattle Sounders
Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

This is all still hard to believe. Six days ago, I went to Chicago Fire training to grab some interviews for future stories. We knew things were getting bad with the coronavirus pandemic, but it was still a shock when the NBA shut down that night, and MLS followed in the morning. Now, every morning when I wake up, there’s a moment where my brain comes back online and I realize that yes, we are staying at home all day, and yes, there are no sports at the moment. It’s just... strange.

The only thing we know for sure, right now, is that no one really knows when sports will return. MLS has shut down training though Friday, and at a minimum, the league would be back in mid-April after the initial 30-day suspension is over. Only missing a month of matches feels a bit optimistic at the moment, but all we can do is wait.

Lots of fans are wondering when the season does pick up again, what will it look like? Will there be a bunch of mid-week games added in? Will the season run until December—or later? Will U.S. Open Cup still happen? What’s the cutoff date for canceling the entire campaign?

We don’t know. The league is doing the right thing by sitting back, taking a breath, and letting this unfold. At some point, MLS will return. When it does, here are a few matches I really hope we get to see:

The Home Opener

The Fire front office had done a great job filling up Soldier Field for the club’s return to the lakefront. Whether it’s still against Atlanta United—or it has to be another team—I’m still pumped about this match. Like I mentioned in my last post, the postponement will likely mean better weather for the opener, and since we’ll all be starving for soccer at that point, it should be an incredible crowd.

Chicago Fire vs. LA Galaxy

I was one of many people on record saying the Fire needed to sign Chicharito. While the Mexican superstar is currently being outscored this season by Jonathan Bornstein, he’s still a huge draw. I’m hoping the Fire throttle the Galaxy, impressing all the unattached fans there to watch Chicharito, turning them into new Fire fans. This one is scheduled for August 9.

Atlanta United vs. Chicago Fire

The Fire are scheduled to make their lone visit to Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium this season on September 19. Right now, this is the third-to-last match of the regular season. It’s a game against one of the top teams in MLS in perhaps the league’s best stadium, and if the Fire are going to make the 2020 MLS Playoffs, they’ll have to prove themselves in matches like this.

Chicago Fire vs. Montreal Impact

The Impact are scheduled to visit Chicago on September 26, for what is, at the moment, the final home game of the season. A match at Soldier Field against a potentially weak side is one where the Fire absolutely need to grab three points, especially when it’s that close to the end of the season. The match also intrigues me for a couple more reasons—one, with the Bears season underway at that point, it’ll be interesting to see the condition of the Soldier Field grass. Two—and I’m fully aware this is a selfish reason to be excited for this match, but I don’t really care—Thierry Henry will be on the sideline for Montreal. As a longtime Arsenal supporter, Henry’s my favorite professional athlete of all time not named Michael Jordan. He was injured the first time I flew to London for a match, so I only got to see him play in person once—in Bridgeview. Even as a coach, it’ll still be a thrill to see him in person.

Honestly, I’ll feel thankful for whatever matches we end up seeing this season. I’ve always known soccer and other sports were a huge part of my life, but I guess I didn’t fully realize how important they were until they were gone.

Stay healthy and take care of each other, everyone. Vamos Fire.