Fire

Tim Howard to join Colorado Rapids

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Tim Howard to join Colorado Rapids

A big part of Major League Soccer is finding out which big name players join the league from abroad during the transfer windows. On Sunday morning a long-rumored name from that category became official.

American goalkeeper Tim Howard, arguably the most widely known currently active American soccer player following his standout showing in the 2014 World Cup, will join the Colorado Rapids in the summer. Howard is currently with Everton in the Barclays Premier League and the Rapids had to pay a transfer fee to acquire him.

Howard, 37, will finish Everton's season and join the Rapids following the opening of the summer transfer window on July 4, according to the Rapids' release. Howard began his career in MLS with the New York/New Jersey Metrostars (now the New York Red Bulls), where he played for six seasons. He has since spent the past 13 years in England, initially joining Manchester United before heading to Everton in 2006. He has more than 300 appearances for Everton, but lost his starting job in the middle of this season.

Howard was called into the U.S. National Team's roster, which was also announced on Sunday, for the two qualifiers against Guatemala on March 25 and 29.

[MORE: Brandon Vincent and Matt Polster to join U.S. Olympic team]

Jermaine Jones, another starter from that 2014 World Cup team, also recently signed with the Rapids. Jones signed just before the start of the MLS season and is currently serving a six-game suspension for an outburst at a referee in the 2015 MLS playoffs.

For a local connection, this move puts the Chicago Fire back in the No. 1 spot in the allocation order. The Fire, which had the No. 1 spot entering the offseason after finishing last in the league in 2015, had traded with the Rapids on draft day. The Fire swapped spots in the allocation order with the Rapids, who held the No. 2 spot, and moved up from picks Nos. 15 and 33 to Nos. 12 and 22 in the draft.

At the time, the trade looked like the Fire moved up in the draft for free and it has played out that way. Howard will join the Rapids as a Designated Player and the Fire do not have an open DP slot at the moment so they wouldn't have been able to acquire Howard anyway. Now, the Fire will be back at the top spot in the allocation order just like before.

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.