Fire

Fire announce 2016 preseason schedule

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Fire announce 2016 preseason schedule

The Chicago Fire released the preseason schedule for 2016, which will include trips to Tampa, Fla., and Portland, Ore.

The Fire will open with training camp starting Jan. 25 at The PrivateBank Fire Pitch on Chicago’s North Side. After spending five days of training in Chicago from Jan. 25-29, the team will depart for Tampa on Jan. 31.

Once in Tampa the Fire will train at the University of South Florida before returning to Chicago on Feb. 12.

[SHOP FIRE: Get your Fire gear right here]

The Fire will then close out the preseason with a trip to Portland, just like they did in 2015. The team will be in Portland from Feb. 15-28 as part of the 2016 Simple Invitational with matches against the host Portland Timbers, the Vancouver Whitecaps and North American Soccer League side Minnesota United FC.

The Simple Invitational will be held at the Timbers’ home stadium, Providence Park. The Fire’s first match is against Vancouver on Feb. 21. Three days later the team will take on Minnesota. The final will take place on Feb. 27 against the host and reigning MLS Cup champion Timbers.

“I’m excited that in just over a month we’ll finally get the team together and begin our preparations for the season,” Fire head coach Veljko Paunovic said in a press release. “It’s invaluable that we’re able to utilize The PrivateBank Fire Pitch, our own facility right here in Chicago to set the tone before heading to Tampa and Portland for competitive matches as we build towards opening day.”

Chicago isn't hosting the 2026 World Cup, but fans should still be excited

Chicago isn't hosting the 2026 World Cup, but fans should still be excited

After failing to qualify to play in this summer’s World Cup, the United States’ pain was alleviated on Wednesday morning after earning a joint bid to host the 2026 World Cup.

But why is this bittersweet for Chicagoans?

Even though the World Cup will be hosted by the U.S., Mexico and Canada in eight years, matches will not be played in Chicago.

The city chose not to be one of the potential hosts of the world’s largest sporting event, despite using Soldier Field as a venue for the 1994 World Cup.

One of the reasons could be the low seating capacity of Chicago’s historic stadium. Soldier Field would be the second smallest spot out of any World Cup host option, seating only 61,500. The massive competition also draws enormous crowds, possibly causing logistical concerns for a highly-populated place like Chicago.

Ten out of 17 different cities in the United States will be gifted the opportunity to host 2026 World Cup games. The list includes Cincinnati (Paul Brown Stadium), Kansas City (Arrowhead Stadium) and Nashville (Nissan Stadium), which are the closest domestic locations to Chicago.

The bright side is that fans from the Midwest won’t have to travel very far to see a match. For bigtime soccer fans in the Chicago area, having the chance to attend world-class matches in United States could be exciting enough.

Out of the 80 games taking place in 2026, 60 of them will be located in the United States.

Can this bid with Mexico and Canada at least help the relevancy of U.S. Soccer in the Chicago area?

The U.S. men’s national team missed this year’s World Cup at a very unideal time, just when it seemed like the sport of soccer was gaining more and more popularity in the United States.

Plus, the United States might not even get an automatic bid to play in their own World Cup as hosts.

But becoming a member of the first trio in FIFA history to host the World Cup, coupled with the expanded 48-team field in 2026, could help the United States retain the fans they have across the nation and around Chicago.

The World Cup might not be coming to the Windy City, but Chicagoans will still have something to be excited about in 2026 with games being played right around the corner. If the U.S. can qualify for the upcoming World Cups, having the tournament in North America will be much sweeter.

Until then, the 2018 World Cup kicks off this Thursday night in Russia.

Ever wonder what a Portillo's soccer jersey would look like?

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@JTHAZZARD

Ever wonder what a Portillo's soccer jersey would look like?

Portillo's has become a staple in the Chicagoland area due to its popular hot dogs, Italian beef sandwiches and now, its soccer jerseys.

OK, maybe one of these does not belong with the others. Regardless, Twitter user @JTHazzard created mock-up soccer jerseys mashing MLS teams and restaurants based in that team's city, and the Portillo's jersey is sweet. 

From the Portillo's logo taking center-stage to the picnic blanket pattern to the discrete Chicago Fire logo, this jersey is absolutely brilliant. The only change this writer would make is including the logo below instead.

Valspar is the current sponsor featured on the Fire's uniforms. If the team ever needs a new sponsor, though, Portillo's would be an excellent replacement.