Chicago will host the 2017 MLS All-Star Game at Soldier Field on August 2. MLS Commissioner Don Garber, City of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and Fire owner Andrew Hauptman were on hand this afternoon to make the formal announcement.
Veljko Paunovic will coach the MLS side against an opponent which has yet to be named, but sources indicate to Fire Confidential that Real Madrid will be announced as the competition in the near future. Garber told media following the event that details were being finalized with a "top 5" club in the world and an announcement would come "soon". Barcelona was thought to be the front runner up until recently.
The All-Star Game will bring some much needed buzz about local professional soccer and MLS back into the market but that attention will be temporary if the Fire's first team doesn't develop into a serious playoff contender capable of holding the interest of potential new fans and a largely disillusioned current supporter base.
It seems the league is set on jump starting that interest by awarding an All Star Game to a market which hosted the event just 11 years ago during the Fire's first season at Toyota Park in 2006. Garber and MLS know that a vital Chicago market is important to the growth and potential of the league. Now it's up to the Fire to make the best of another chance to capture and maintain interest.
You can listen to full post-announcement interviews with Commissioner Don Garber and Fire COO Atul Khosla in the latest edition of the Fire Confidential Live podcast right here. The All-Star Game, MLS expansion, games at Soldier Field, and the state of the Fire are the main topics.