2017 MLS All-Star Game: Hype and Expectations Rise in Chicago

13 January 2017: Guillermo Delgado (Delaware) (ESP) was taken with the #27 overall pick by the Chicago Fire. With head coach Veljko Paunovic (SRB). The 2017 MLS SuperDraft was held at The Los Angeles Convention Center in Los Angeles, California as part of the annual NSCAA Convention. (Photo by Andy Mead/YCJ/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

MLS commissioner Don Garber announced Tuesday that Chicago’s Soldier Field will host the 2017 MLS All-Star Game on Wednesday, Aug. 2. The publicity laden announcement was held in Downtown Chicago at Soldier Field itself and was attended by many prominent figures including Fire Owner Andrew Hauptmann and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

2017 MLS All-Star Game: Hype and Expectations Rise in Chicago

Also announced at the home of the NFL’s Chicago Bears was that second year Fire coach Veljko Paunovic will coach this year’s All Star team. The opposition club for the 2017 MLS All Star game was not announced Tuesday but it was teased as being a ’Top 5 International Club’. Hosting the MLS’ mid season showpiece game now adds more fuel to the Fire’s rising expectations after they already made a splash in the player transfer market in early January.

All Star Game brings hype

The 2017 MLS All Star game is the second All Star game the Fire have played host to but will be the first one held within the Chicago City Limits. Bridgeview’s Toyota Park celebrated its opening in 2006 by hosting the exhibition match. When asked about the venue selection, the MLS commissioner said You’ll see when we announce the team that it would make no sense for anybody to have an international opponent in a stadium that has (20,000) seats.” 

Commissioner Garber also commented that “Chicago is one of the great sports cities in America, and Soldier Field is one of the most historic venues in this country and around the world,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. “The MLS All-Star Game is an opportunity to take the best of our league and put them up against one of the best clubs while broadcasting it around the globe”. Chicago’s Soldier Field has a capacity of around 70,000 and has been the host to a number of international soccer competitions including the Copa America Centenario in 2016.

Soldier Field selected as Venue

The Soldier Field selection adds more fuel to the movement of Fire fans and Chicago locals that are displeased with Toyota Park. The Fire’s home since 2006 is located outside of the City of Chicago in the suburban Village of Bridgeview. Without speculating on the details of the financial arrangement between the club and village, logistically the stadium is difficult to get to and is often understaffed.

The MLS commissioner acknowledged this point when asked about sparking interest in the Fire saying “I think this team has done a lot more than it gets credit for, something that personally disappoints me, the club has its challenges with the facility and with some of the issues related to that but we have very few owners who are as committed to our league and their club as Andrew Hauptmann is.” 

Garber went on to add “I want to make this crystal clear, we are in the business of trying to grow this sport in our country and to make our teams more popular. If we can bring in an international club to a 70,00 seat stadium that has an enormous benefit for the Fire and Toyota Park because its going to create more excitement. The Fire are the promoter of this game. They are front and center of this press conference today. So this is an opportunity for the Fire to be in the middle of something really big”.

The turnaround of the Chicago Fire now looks to be in full swing on paper. The additions of key new players to the team this offseason is impressive and now the added publicity of hosting the 2017 All Star game may give soccer in Chicago a real boost. Now the club need to show that improvement on the pitch at Toyota Park this year. Getting off to a hot start in March would be the perfect way to get fans and locals excited about the team. A hot start would also allow this year’s MLS All Star Coach Veljko Paunovic to select some of his own Fire players to feature in the match against the yet unnamed ’Top 5 international Club’.

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