Fire: Geographic groupings for Round of 16 USOC draw announced


Fire: Geographic groupings for Round of 16 USOC draw announced

With 14 MLS teams advancing past the fourth round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, U.S. Soccer announced the geographic groupings prior to Thursday morning's Round of 16 draw late Wednesday night.

The Chicago Fire left it late in their fourth round fixture, narrowly edging Louisville City FC in extra time thanks to Quincy Amarikwa's redirected header in the 116th minute. Despite finding it difficult to break down the staunch USL outfit, it was enough to propel the Men in Red to the fifth round.

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Thursday' draw, which will be streamed live on at 10 a.m. CT, will ultimately determine which of the three teams listed below Frank Yallop's side - a four-time Open Cup champion - will face on June 30/July 1.

Charlotte Independence - the lone representative remaining from third-division USL -  eliminated 2007 Open Cup champion New England Revolution in Boston in the fourth round. The Jacks, in their first year, took over USL Pro franchise Charlotte Eagles, whom the Fire defeated 2-0 on May 29, 2013 in their only meeting in the storied tournament and now reside in the Premier Development League (PDL), the fourth tier of the American soccer pyramid.

Meanwhile, the Fire could also face Orlando City SC for the first time since the solitary meeting with Adrian Heath's group at Toyota Park on June 26, 2013, in which the Men in Red trounced the former USL delegation 5-1.

[MORE: Fire's all-time leader in goals to be inducted into Ring of Fire]

The Lions, who sunk the Fire late on in their first-ever MLS encounter this season, survived a thriller Wednesday night against USL's Charleston Battery. With four penalty kicks awarded in 120 minutes, a 4-4 draw by the end of the second period of extra time forced the match into a penalty kick shootout, which saw the expansion side come out victorious by an 8-7 margin.

Finally, a sixth bout in Open Cup play with Columbus Crew SC may beckon as well. The Men in Red's Eastern Conference rivals have lost all five matches played between the two teams since 1998. Gregg Berhalter's group handily knocked out 1995 winners Richmond Kickers 3-1 Wednesday and cruised to the next phase.

For more info on the general proceedings of the Round of 16 draw, click here.   

Manchester City brings Premier League trophy to Chicago ahead of preseason game in Soldier Field

NBC Sports Chicago

Manchester City brings Premier League trophy to Chicago ahead of preseason game in Soldier Field

Manchester City is coming off a season in which it dominated the English Premier League to the tune of a record 100-point season.

City is kicking off the preseason of its title defense in Chicago. City takes on Borussia Dortmund at Soldier Field on Friday night.

The last time the reigning Premier League champions were in Chicago was when rivals Manchester United came to Soldier to take on the Chicago Fire in 2011.

The Citizens won’t have the full arsenal of stacked stars for its U.S. tour, which also includes stops in New York and Miami as part of the International Champions Cup. Many of the team’s best players are getting a break after playing in the World Cup. Belgium’s Kevin De Bruyne, one of the stars of the tournament, is one of six Man City players to reach the semifinals.

Paul Dickov, who played for City for nearly 10 years between 1996 and 2008, is on tour with the team and talked about City’s preparations.

“The reason the clubs want to come to the States and play in International Champions Cup is the facilities are fantastic, the training facilities, the hotels, the treatment they get and just give them the best preparation going into what’s going to be a hard season,” Dickov said. “Nobody has won the Premier League back-to-back titles for nearly 10 years now so it’s going to be tough. Coming here and being able to prepare the way they can in the United States is going to put them on a long way to regain the title again.”

City brought the Premier League trophy to Wrigley Field on Thursday for the Cubs-Cardinals game. Dickov got to throw out the first pitch. The Scotsman threw a strike, much to his relief.

“I was quite calm beforehand, but I must admit when I got out there and I had to walk out there both hands started getting a bit sweaty,” he said. “I managed to make it and I got a fantastic reception off the Chicago Cubs fans so thank you to everybody at Chicago Cubs for having me there. It was great. Something I’ll never forget.”

Dickov compared Cubs fans to City fans in the way both teams struggled for a long time before finding success.

“They stuck by us through thick and thin when things weren’t as great,” Dickov said of Man City fans. “I suppose it’s a little bit like the Chicago Cubs here in Chicago. The fans turn out, they get 30-40 thousand, great atmosphere, back their team.”

While promoting the game, the Premier League trophy made multiple stops in Chicago, including with the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field on an off day.

City also took the trophy and new signing Riyad Mahrez, who just joined Man City from 2016 champions Leicester City, to Haas Park in Logan Square. Haas Park includes a soccer field donated by Manchester City and the American embassy of the United Arab Emirates in 2012.

“The outcome of it has been great,” Dickov said. “Thousands of children and families benefiting, not just from the soccer part of it, but the education program as well. To be down there the other day for the full day and seeing the joy in the kids face seeing soccer here and the other activities that are on is great because, yeah, football is fantastic, soccer is fantastic and when you’re out there and you play you want to win, but it’s important, especially from Manchester City’s point of view, the city and the community. The stuff that they do off the field is second to none and it’s giving something back.”

Chicago Fire permanently sign midfielder Aleksandar Katai


Chicago Fire permanently sign midfielder Aleksandar Katai

The Fire have secured the transfer of midfielder Aleksandar Katai from Deportivo Alavés of the Spanish La Liga, the team announced Wednesday afternoon.

This season’s breakout playmaker has been signed with Chicago through 2019, with a 2020 club option. Before the transfer, Katai was on loan from Alavés, which was set to expire after July.

The Serbian player has emerged as one of the most important pieces of the Fire’s offense this season. Since joining the club on Feb. 6, Katai has scored eight goals in 18 league matches, tying forward Nemanja Nikolić for the most on the team. Katai also has three assists in 2018.

The 27-year-old’s biggest game of the year came against New York City FC last month when he scored two goals to lead the Fire to 3-2 victory. His production this season in the MLS has been much more significant than it was in 23 matches with Alavés, where Katai only tallied three goals and four assists.

His transfer fee is unknown but, according to Sam Stejskal of, he will be a “Targeted Allocation Money player” for the rest of this season and will not be a Designated Player until 2019. Whatever the official price was, acquiring Katai for a lengthier amount of time seemed like a must.

Throughout this season, the Fire were rumored to be in talks with legendary Spanish striker Fernando Torres. On Tuesday, he signed with Sagan Tosu, a Japanese club. The Fire signed Katai the next day, showing that the team was possibly waiting for Torres to leave the market.

Chicago will face the Philadelphia Union Wednesday night at Toyota Park, where Katai will look to continue his impressive season.