Chicago Fire Soccer

Barb Greasy, Staff Writer

On Oct. 8, 1997, on the 126th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire, Chicago kicked off its inaugural season of the disaster’s namesake, the Chicago Fire, which had just been founded as Chicago’s Major League Soccer (MLS) team. Navy Pier’s Gateway Park held the ceremony in which the team’s logo, colors and uniform were revealed. The 12 players to be added to the roster were chosen on Nov. 6 in the Signature Room of the John Hancock Building.

Investor-operator Phillip F. Anschutz and President Robert Sanderman, both with two years of experience with MLS soccer, felt that having an MLS soccer team in Chicago would be successful because of Chicago’s high Latino and Polish populations (Chicago being the city with the second-highest population of Polish people behind Warsaw).

Anschutz and Sanderman signed on popular Latino players such as Jorge Campos, Diego Gutierrez and Chris Armas, and Polish favorites such as former team captain Peter Nowak, Jerzy Podbrozny and Roman Kosecki. Anschutz and Sanderman felt having players representing the surrounding populations would ensure high attendance and enthusiasm for the sport. Bob Bradley, formerly the assistant head coach for D.C. United, was named the Fire’s head coach.

The Chicago Fire has recently moved into its new home, Toyota Park, which was just completed this spring. It is located on the corner of 71st Street and Harlem Avenue in the Bridgeview neighborhood. It cost $70 million, took two and 1/2 years to build, and can hold a crowd of up to 20,000 people.

Since becoming a team, the Fire has won the MLS cup in 1998 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California in front of a crowd of 51, 350 fans. It holds the MLS record for the biggest shut-out ever, with a 7-0 win over Kansas City at Arrowhead Stadium on July 4, 2001.

On Oct. 18, 2002, PUMA became the official supplier for the team. They have also replaced Bob Bradley with the U.S. National’s top assistant coach Dave Sarachan in 2002.

The season lasts from April 1 to Nov. 12 and tickets range from $10 to $25. The season is coming to a close so tickets are more expensive now, but you can go to their web site,, and read about ways to get tickets for free.