The Chicago Fire will resume full team training today in Bridgeview for the first time since the club was eliminated from the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando.
Major League Soccer’s goal remains to play a shortened regular season and full playoffs in home markets, which could start next month. Because of health, scheduling, and other concerns, some MLS teams may have to play home matches away from their usual stadiums.
However, if the league goes forward with games, the Fire are still planning to play home matches at Soldier Field, Hot Time in Old Town has learned.
The Athletic leaked some of the details of the league’s current return to play plan—matches would start August 22, and the three Canadian teams would play only each other initially, with the hope they would be able to cross the border after that. FC Dallas and Nashville SC would play each other three times, in order to make up for the three games each team missed by pulling out of the MLS is Back Tournament. The rest of the matchups are expected to be intra-conference only.
The Fire, which shifted to the Western Conference for the tournament, would go back to the East for the regular season.
It’s up to local market health officials to decide whether fans would be allowed to attend. USL has been playing games with reduced capacities since restarting a couple weeks ago. The Fire’s USL League One affiliate, Forward Madison FC, will play in front of fans for its first home match this Friday night at Hart Park in Wauwatosa, WI. The club had to move its home games to the Milwaukee suburb because health officials in Dane County, WI wouldn’t allow the team to host matches in Madison.
Fire ticket reps have been calling season ticket holders, asking whether they’d be interested in attending matches at Soldier Field, if city officials allow fans in the stands. There’s been no final decision on whether that will happen.
Unlike a “bubble” setup, which has been working safely for MLS in Orlando (and also in Utah for the entire NWSL Challenge Cup), this plan would mean teams would be traveling around the continent. Major League Baseball has already run into issues with this, with as many as 17 members of the Miami Marlins testing positive for COVID-19. MLB had to temporarily shut down the Marlins and the team’s most recent opponent, the Philadelphia Phillies, while the league waits for more test results to come back.
Another issue—Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has instituted a mandatory, 14-day quarantine for travelers entering or returning to Chicago from several coronavirus hotspots. So far, this has not had an impact on sports teams.
The situation is very fluid, so MLS has yet to announce any final plans on a return to play. Things can—and likely will—change before anything is official. But right now, it appears the Fire’s “Road to Soldier Field” is nearing an end.