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Chicago Fire vs. Real Salt Lake: Gameday Guide and How to Watch

The Fire are expecting their biggest crowd in nearly 20 years for the home finale. But why?

MLS: Chicago Fire at FC Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

When the Chicago Fire announced that the crowd for tonight’s match was expected to top 30,000 people, it was met with, shall we say, confusion. Why? Why now? With the team out of playoff contention, why will the crowd be twice the size it was for the previous high this season, 15,915 against Nashville SC last month?

It’s a combination of a few things. Yes, the Fire gave season ticket holders extra tickets for the match, so they could bring friends along. The club also sent out a mailer this week to previous customers, with two free tickets, and entry to a private event at Soldier Field.

Plus, it’s a rare Saturday night game during the Bears season, its fan appreciation night, and it’s the first match since the new logo was officially launched. Group sales, which were very low at the start of the season because of the pandemic, are way up for this match. Also, because home games have been so sparse during the back half of the season, the marketing team was able to put a big focus on this match.

Luka Stojanovic’s golazo game winner Wednesday night in Cincinnati probably didn’t hurt, either.

Long story short, they really did sell more tickets than usual for this match, and then decided to give away a bunch more to pump up the atmosphere, not unlike what they did for the March 2020 Atlanta United match that never happened, or what the Chicago Red Stars did after the USWNT players came back from the World Cup in 2019.

Joe Mansueto and Ishwara Glassman Chrein have both used the term “sampling” in interviews with Hot Time. Basically, they feel like if they can get people in the door, some of those people will end up loving it, and keep coming back.

Think about the first time you went to a Fire game. Isn’t that sort of what happened? A friend or family member probably took you along, you weren’t sure what to expect, and then it ended up being an incredible experience. That’s what they’re banking on.

These are the top 3 standalone attendances in Fire history:

  • 37,122 – Chicago Fire vs. LA Galaxy on Aug. 8, 1998
  • 36,444 – Chicago Fire vs. Tampa Bay Mutiny on April 4, 1998
  • 30,485 – Chicago Fire vs. Columbus Crew SC on Oct. 10, 2003

If they top that 30,485 figure tonight, it will be the largest standalone crowd since the 1998 season—way back when when Frank Klopas was still on the team, not managing it. If you’re on the fence about coming out tonight, the Fire’s interim head coach has a message for you.

“I urge all the Fire fans, soccer fans, to come out and support the team,” Klopas said. “I know we are going to do our best to make sure that that last game at Soldier Field, at least for this year, it’s a memorable one and that they have something to look forward to next year.”

Chicago Fire vs. Real Salt Lake

MLS Match #32 | Saturday, October 23 | Soldier Field, Chicago

Kickoff: 7 p.m. CT

TV: WGN-TV

Streaming: CFFC Live (in the Chicago market), ESPN+ (outside the Chicago market)

Live Twitter Updates: @HotTimeOldTown

Radio: TUDN 1200AM

Chicago Fire Injuries & Absences

QUESTIONABLE: none

OUT: Francisco Calvo (health and safety protocols), Kenneth Kronholm (right knee), Carlos Terán (right thigh)

ALSO: Stanislav Ivanov is in Europe for a green card appointment, and will miss today’s match

Real Salt Lake Injuries & Absences

QUESTIONABLE: Marcelo Silva

OUT: Zack Farnsworth

The Final Two Matches

Wednesday, October 27 - New York City FC vs Chicago Fire at Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY (6:30 p.m. CT, WGN-TV, CFFC Live)

Sunday, November 7 - Columbus Crew vs. Chicago Fire at Lower.com Field, Columbus, OH (2:30 p.m. CT, WGN-TV, CFFC Live)