The Chicago Fire will start its 2017 U.S. Open Cup campaign on the road.
The Fire learned their draw for the fourth round of the knockout tournament, which includes minor league and amateur teams as well as the 19 American Major League Soccer teams. The draw was made and coin flips took place to decide host teams on Thursday.
The Fire will play the winner of the third round match between Saint Louis FC and the Michigan Bucks, which will be played in Michigan on May 31.
Either potential matchup has some intrigue to it. Saint Louis FC is a minor league team in the USL which was the Fire's affiliate last year.
If the Michigan Bucks win, it means a return to Ultimate Soccer Arenas in Pontiac where the Fire lost to the Bucks in the 2012 edition of the U.S. Open Cup. The arena infamously resembles a warehouse more than a soccer stadium.
The Bucks play in the PDL, which is a summer amateur league for college players.
The Fire aren't the only Chicago team in the tournament. FC United, another PDL team, has won two matches to get this far, including a second-round win on Wednesday against USL side Pittsburgh Riverhounds. FC United will play an adult league team, Christos FC in the third round.
There are a number of intrastate matches and rivals paired for the fourth round, even if the all-Chicago match won't be one of them. There are four intrastate matches in the third round and a pair of MLS rivalries coming in the fourth round (New York Red Bulls vs. New York City FC and Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers).
The fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup is set for June 14.
The Fire have won the U.S. Open Cup four times and have lost in the semifinal round each of the past four years.
MLS announced on Tuesday that the Chicago Fire’s first game back after the season was suspended due to COVID-19 has been postponed.
The Fire were supposed to play Nashville SC on Wednesday in their opening Group A match of the MLS is Back tournament. But since arriving in Orlando for the tournament, five Nashville players tested positive for COVID-19 and four others received inclusive results, requiring more testing. As a result, MLS is now evaluating Nashville’s participation in the tournament.
The Fire will now return to play on July 14 against Inter Miami CF.
The Fire also announced that the Drive-In Matchday event that was scheduled for Wednesday’s game has been rescheduled for their July 19 game against New York City FC. Fans who registered for that event will have the opportunity to sign-up again for the new date.
This is the second Chicago pro sports match altered as leagues try to return to play. The Chicago Red Stars also had a game cancelled in late June due to Orlando Pride players testing positive for COVID-19.
As MLB, the NHL and the NBA gear up to return it remains to be seen how they will react in a similar situation.
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MLS soccer is coming back this summer.
The league announced a plan to have all 26 MLS clubs resume play on July 8 with a league-wide “MLS is Back Tournament.”
The games will be played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World, without fans in the stands.
Here’s how it will work:
Clubs can arrive in Orlando to begin training on June 24. Then a group stage will begin July 8 followed by a knockout stage, starting July 25.
There will be six groups, three for each the Western and Eastern Conferences. The group stage draw will occur on June 11 at 2:30 p.m. CT.
Each team will play three group stage matches, and the results from those games will count in the 2020 MLS regular season standings.
Then the top two teams from each group, plus the four best third-place finishers will advance to the knockout stage. That stage starts with a round-of-16, followed by quarterfinals, semifinals and then the championship game. The championship game will be played on August 11.
In case of a tie at the end of regulation in the knockout stage, games will proceed directly to a penalty kick shootout.
The winner of the tournament will earn a berth in the 2021 Concacaf Champions League.
At the conclusion of the tournament, MLS will resume its regular season followed by the MLS Cup Playoffs and MLS Cup.
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