Chicago Fire Soccer Club is an American professional soccer club based in the Chicago suburb of Bridgeview, Illinois. The team competes in Major League Soccer (MLS). The organization is named for the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, and was founded on October 8, 1997, the event's 126th anniversary. In their first league season in 1998, the Fire won the MLS Cup as well as the U.S. Open Cup (the "double"). They have also won U.S. Open Cups in 2000, 2003, and 2006; in addition to the 2003 MLS Supporters' Shield.
The Fire maintain an extensive development system, consisting of the Chicago Fire Premier (Premier Development League and Super-20 League teams), the Chicago Fire NPSL team, the Chicago Fire Development Academy, and the Chicago Fire Juniors youth organization. They also operate the Chicago Fire Foundation, the team's community-based charitable division. Toyota Park is the Fire's home stadium. The team's head coach is Frank Yallop. Brian Bliss serves as the team's technical director. Yallop's coaching staff is rounded out by assistant coaches Marc Bircham and Clint Mathis, and goalkeeping coach Aron Hyde.
Founded on October 8, 1997, the club was originally based at Soldier Field. Since 2006, they reside at Toyota Park at 71st and Harlem Avenue in Bridgeview. The owners of the Fire are Andell Holdings, who purchased the club in 2007. Andell Holdings director Andrew Hauptman acts as club chairman, while the director of soccer is Frank Yallop and the Chief Operating Officer is Atul Khosla. The Fire are historically most successful in the U.S. Open Cup; winning championships in 1998, 2000, 2003, and 2006. The Fire keeps a close connection with the Chicago Sting (its predecessor team in the NASL) by holding frequent commemorative events, reunions, and wearing Sting-inspired shirts.
Many notable players have worn the Fire shirt, including U.S. internationals Chris Armas, Carlos Bocanegra, Frank Klopas, DaMarcus Beasley, Brian McBride, Tony Sanneh, Cory Gibbs, Ante Razov, Josh Wolff and Eric Wynalda. Some of the club's other notable American professional players include C.J. Brown, Jesse Marsch, Chris Rolfe, and Zach Thornton. The Fire also has a reputation for importing international talent, from established veterans like Pável Pardo, Piotr Nowak, Cuauhtémoc Blanco, Tomasz Frankowski, Lubos Kubik and Hristo Stoichkov; in addition to younger players such as Patrick Nyarko, Marco Pappa, Damani Ralph, Bakary Soumare, and Nery Castillo.
Toyota Park is a soccer-specific stadium located at 71st Street and Harlem Avenue in Bridgeview, Illinois, about 12 miles southwest from downtown Chicago. It is the home stadium of the Chicago Fire Soccer Club, members of Major League Soccer (MLS), and the Chicago Bliss of the Legends Football League (LFL). Toyota Park was developed at a cost of around $100 million. The facility opened June 11, 2006. It also previously hosted the Chicago Machine of Major League Lacrosse and the Chicago Red Stars of Women's Professional Soccer. The stadium's capacity is 20,000.
Designed to incorporate traditional stadium features from both American and European facilities, Toyota Park includes mostly covered seating, a brick facade and stone entry archway, and first rows that are less than three yards from the field. It also includes 42 executive suites, 6 larger party suites, the Illinois Soccer Hall of Fame, and the Fire club offices as well as a large stadium club/banquet room measuring over 9,000 square feet (840 m2).
A practice facility with two fields (one natural grass, one artificial turf) for the Fire club and its youth programs is adjacent to the stadium. The stadium's design is expandable to 30,000 seats without great cost for future growth. The natural grass stadium field includes a $1.7 million turf management system including full heating, drainage, and aeration capabilities and measures 120 yards (110 m) long by 75 yards (69 m) wide.
A permanent stage was incorporated into the stadium design to not only facilitate hosting concerts but also to be able to quickly change from stage configuration to soccer configuration and vice versa. A typical conversion takes less than 18 hours to complete, and an additional 8,000 chairback seats can be accommodated on the field for concerts and other stage events.
In 2006, Toyota announced that it had entered into a 10-year naming rights agreement and the stadium was renamed Toyota Park.