Fire host Ft. Lauderdale with eye on U.S. Open Cup semifinal spot

Fire host Ft. Lauderdale with eye on U.S. Open Cup semifinal spot

The U.S. Open Cup has become the priority for the Chicago Fire this season.

Coach Veljko Paunovic called Wednesday’s quarterfinal against the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers a must-win and even rested players Saturday at FC Dallas to strengthen the team for this match.

“We all know how much we value this competition and it becomes a priority,” Paunovic said on Monday. “We will go with all our horses in this game against Ft. Lauderdale, who is a team that has proven that they can beat any MLS team. They did so far in Open Cup, two times, so full respect, full power against them.”

The quarterfinal will kickoff at 7:30 p.m. at Toyota Park and will be streamed live on

The Strikers got this far in the competition by beating the Richmond Kickers and D.C. United in penalty kicks before beating Orlando City in extra time last round. That’s three wins with none of them coming in 90 minutes.

Ft. Lauderdale went 4-3-3 in the North American Soccer League’s first half, good for sixth place out of 11 teams, and is 0-3-1 in the fall season. Indy Eleven, the NASL team the Fire squeaked by in penalties in the Fire’s first Open Cup match this season, beat the Strikers 3-0 on July 13.

Former Fire players in Maicon Santos, the Strikers' leading scorer who spent part of 2013 with the Fire, and Victor Pineda, a former Fire homegrown, play for the Strikers. Maicon Santos will be out due to suspension after picking up a red card at Orlando.

[SHOP: Grab your own Fire jersey here]

Off the field, the Strikers picked up some unwanted attention this season for paying players late on multiple occasions this season. The team’s Brazilian ownership group includes World Cup winner Ronaldo as a minority owner.

All this adds up to the Strikers not being a very imposing opponent on paper, but Paunovic insists the Fire will play a strong lineup despite being in the middle of a crowded stretch in the schedule. This match will be the Fire’s fourth in 12 days and trip to New England comes three days later.

“All our eyes are on this game and we want to prepare and win the game,” Paunovic said. “Then we will look forward of course. We know that we have New England right after, three days after, so we also know what we want to achieve in that game. Having this stretch it is important to recover well, having a plan where all the guys are important and have to be engaged. So far I think we are doing a good job with that and players understanding very well their roles.”

Paunovic indicated on Monday that Matt Lampson will start at goalkeeper. Lampson has started the previous two U.S. Open Cup matches. In addition, Joey Calistri, who missed Saturday’s loss at FC Dallas due to an ankle sprain, will not be ready to return on Wednesday.

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?


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.