Fire

Jon Busch, Frank Yallop react to USOC Round of 16 draw

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Jon Busch, Frank Yallop react to USOC Round of 16 draw

After edging past one USL side in the fourth round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, the Chicago Fire will meet another third-division club in the next phase of the fabled tournament.

The Men in Red will host Charlotte Independence in the Round of 16 on Tuesday, June 30 at 7:30 p.m. at Toyota Park. 

Led by U.S. men's national team Press Officer Michael Kammarman, Thursday morning's draw, hosted by the U.S. Soccer House in Chicago, was conducted by U.S. Adult Soccer Association Executive Director Duncan Riddle and Open Cup Commissioner Paul Marstaller.

[RELATED: Geographic groupings for Round of 16 USOC draw announced]

Frank Yallop's depleted group advanced with a 1-0 victory over first-year outfit Louisville City FC in extra time Tuesday night, while Charlotte stunned the New England Revolution 1-0 in Boston to move forward.

"They've gone into a very tough environment and won," Yallop said after training on Friday. "[We] take no game lightly; we're at home, which is great for us. We want to do well in this competition and we grinded ourselves through the last round."

Jon Busch, who sat out of Tuesday's match to make way for Sean Johnson's first start since May 15, knows the feeling of being on both sides of a MLS vs. USL fixture and the competitive spirit that comes with being the underdog. The 38-year-old played for Hampton Roads Mariners and the Hershey Wildcats, who dissolved in 2007 and 2001, respectively. 

"We've got to match their intensity," Busch added. "They're going to come out here; they want to upset us; they want to prove people wrong. That's the biggest thing going into a game against a lower-division club: the soccer may not be at the level we think it should be, but they're going to come after us full bore and we've got to be able to handle that."

[SHOP: Buy a Fire jersey]

Charlotte head coach Mike Jeffries, meanwhile, will return to his old stomping grounds. His first MLS gig was as an assistant to Bob Bradley during the Fire's first three seasons. Jeffries was a part of the inaugural side that won the Open Cup in 1998 and 2000, before returning as an assistant coach once more from 2008-10, and as Director of Player Personnel from October 2010 through September 2012.

The Jacks, a new addition to the USL, were formerly the Charlotte Eagles, whom the Fire faced once before in Open Cup play. A 2-0 triumph on the campus of Winthrop University on May 29, 2013 - with goals from Mike Magee and Chris Rolfe - sent the four-time winners to a fourth-round meeting with Columbus Crew SC, which saw the Men in Red prevail and later trounce Orlando City SC in the Round of 16 that year before falling to D.C. United in the semifinal.

The path appears very similar in 2015. Should the Fire come out on top, they will also host the quarterfinal matchup on July 21 or 22 and face the winner of Crew SC and Orlando City. The winner of the South Region will then travel to face the winner of the East Region in the semifinal Aug. 11-12.         

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.