Fire

Minnesota officially set to join MLS as 22nd team in 2017

Minnesota officially set to join MLS as 22nd team in 2017

Major League Soccer has finally given the official stamp of approval for Minnesota to join the league in 2017.

MLS commissioner Don Garber and Minnesota’s ownership group, led by Bill McGuire, made the announcement Friday from CHS Field in St. Paul.

In March of 2015 Minnesota was announced as an expansion team, but details like when the team would begin play, what name the club would play under and where they would initially play remained unknown. Minnesota will retain the name of the NASL franchise, Minnesota United FC, and join the already announced Atlanta United to give MLS 22 teams for the 2017 season.

Minnesota will play in the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium in its first year. Barring some final political barriers, the team will eventually have its own stadium in St. Paul. The Star Tribune reported the team expects to get that final approval.

Support for an expansion team in Minnesota began when McGuire’s Minnesota United FC had success in the North American Soccer League. The club has averaged around 9,000 fans per game since the NASL’s fall 2014 season.

In addition to keeping the same name as the NASL team, the popular loon logo remains.

From a local perspective, Minnesota gives another regional opponent for the Chicago Fire although Minnesota will play in the Western Conference with Atlanta joining in the Eastern Conference also in 2017.

As for other MLS expansion news and rumors, SI’s Brian Straus gave an update on other expansion teams coming. Straus reported that Los Angeles FC is scheduled for 2018, David Beckham’s Miami team could be close behind and Sacramento, St. Louis and Detroit are the leaders for spots 25-28.

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?

portillos.jpg
@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.