Fire

Fire release 2016 MLS schedule

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Fire release 2016 MLS schedule

The full Major League Soccer schedule was announced on Thursday and now Chicago Fire fans can make their plans for the 2016 season.

As was previously announced, the Fire are opening on Sunday, March 6 against New York City F.C. at 1 p.m. and the match will be televised on Comcast SportsNet Chicago. The following game will take place on Friday, March 11 at Orlando.

[MORE FIRE: Draft picture clears for Fire as MLS announces Generation adidas class]

Future broadcast information will be available at a later date. CSN Chicago is the home for Chicago Fire.

Here are some facts and notable dates from the schedule:

- Three of the Fire’s first four games and five of the first seven will be at Toyota Park.

- The first seven games and nine of the first 10 will take place against Eastern Conference opponents.

- Patrick Nyarko will first return to Toyota Park with D.C. United on April 30.

- The reigning MLS Cup champion Portland Timbers come to Toyota Park on May 28.

[SHOP FIRE: Get your Fire gear right here]

- MLS will break during the Copa America Centenario. After the Portland match, the Fire will next play on June 18 at Colorado.

- Former Fire captain Jeff Larentowicz will return to Bridgeview with the LA Galaxy on Aug. 24.

- Toronto FC, featuring U.S. national team stalwarts Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore, will visit Toyota Park on Sept. 10, four days after the U.S. hosts Trinidad and Tobago in a World Cup qualifier.

- Just like in 2015, the Fire will play back-to-back games against Columbus, although a Fire bye week will sit in between the two October matches.

- Teams that will not travel to Toyota Park in 2016: Colorado, Dallas, Real Salt Lake, Seattle, Vancouver

- Teams the Fire will play three times in 2016: Columbus, - The Fire will host three midweek games, two on Wednesday and one on a Thursday.

Check out the full 34-game schedule below:

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.