Chicago Fire FC has its full 2021 regular season schedule at last, as announced by the Club on Wednesday afternoon.
Head coach Raphael Wicky will begin his second season at the helm with a previously-announced visit from the New England Revolution on April 17 at Soldier Field, which will formally kick off the Club’s campaign towards the 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs.
As a bonus, the Fire additionally announced just hours earlier the Club's plans to welcome soccer fans to Soldier Field beginning with the home opener as part of the City’s “Open Chicago” efforts.
Now that the schedule is set and fans will be back in the building, take a look at some of the finer details set to shape the Fire’s 2021 season:
Last season’s mid-March suspension of regular season play due to the COVID-19 pandemic meant that the Fire finished the year with 23 matches played, which included their three group stage games from the MLS is Back Tournament in July.
While continuing to prioritize health and safety protocols entering the 2021 season, the league has returned to a full 34-match calendar that begins the weekend of April 17. The Fire will play 17 matches at Soldier Field and 17 matches on the road before the regular season culminates with Decision Day on Nov. 7.
Just prior to the release of the 2021 regular season schedule was the long-awaited news that fans will be allowed to return to Soldier Field to attend Fire home matches in person in a limited capacity. Alongside Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot, the Club's announcement came as part of the City’s “Open Chicago” efforts.
“Today is an exciting day for the Club,” said Fire Owner and Chairman Joe Mansueto in the Club's official press release. “We’d like to thank Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Governor J.B. Pritzker for their leadership and guidance throughout the past year. We are looking forward to April 17, when fans will be able to cheer on the team in-person at Soldier Field. We welcome all Chicagoans to come see a game this year.”
For full details on the health and safety measures fans can expect at Soldier Field this season, click here.
Eyes on the East
The 2021 schedule is uniquely heavy on Eastern Conference opponents this year. The Fire will play only two Western Conference teams in 2021 - first at Sporting Kansas City on Sept. 11, then at home against Real Salt Lake on Oct. 23.
The season’s heavy emphasis on intraconference play will see the Fire take on six of their Eastern Conference counterparts on three separate occasions, up from the usual two per year. Those teams are Columbus Crew SC, D.C. United, the New England Revolution, New York City FC, New York Red Bulls, and the Philadelphia Union.
How to Watch
Tune in all season long as 32 of the the Fire's 34 matches are set to be carried on Chicago's very own, WGN-TV, beginning with the season opener on April 17.
The Fire will also appear nationally on UniMás twice in 2021, first in the Club's inaugural meeting with Inter Miami CF at Soldier Field on Saturday, May 22, and next on Sunday, Aug. 21 when they travel to face the Philadelphia Union.
In addition, Spanish-language radio coverage of the Fire's 2021 schedule will be carried locally on Univision Radio Chicago.
Breaking it Down
Looking at the days of the week in which the Fire will play on in 2021, the schedule breaks down like this:
- 17 Saturdays
- 9 Wednesdays
- 7 Sundays
- 1 Thursday
Fans will also enjoy some relative consistency in kick times across the Fire’s 17 home matches. The Fire have 10 7 p.m. starts, four 12 p.m. starts, a pair of 5 p.m. starts, and the lone 7:30 whistle on April 17’s opening night against the New England Revolution (all times CT).
Summer at Soldier
There’s no place quite like Chicago in the summer, and this year’s middle months will be especially kind to Fire fans looking to spend theirs along the Lakefront.
Thirteen of the Fire’s first 19 matches are set to be held at Soldier Field, and that includes a particularly home-heavy stretch of 11 of 14 matches played in Chicago from Saturday, May 22 through Saturday, Aug. 14.
Home wins and warm weather on deck. We can’t wait.
Autumn on the Road
The Summer’s heavy home schedule then gives way to a lengthy road trip as the calendar flips into fall.
Starting with the Club’s Aug. 18 visit to Inter Miami CF, the Fire will play six-straight matches on the road, culminating with a trip to Club de Foot Montreal on Sunday, Sept. 19.
Of the Fire’s final 15 matches of the regular season, 11 will be played away from home.
The Fire’s first opportunities to host 2020 expansion sides Inter Miami CF and Nashville SC were put on hold after the regular season was suspended in March.
Both sides will make now their first-ever visits to Soldier Field this year. First up, Miami and new head coach Phil Neville will visit the Lakefront on Saturday, May 22 in a nationally-televised matchup on UniMás. Nashville then comes to town for their first Soldier Field experience on Sunday, Sept. 26. The Fire will not face 2021 expansion side Austin FC this season.
On the flip side, the Fire will make their first-ever visits to a pair of brand new MLS stadiums in the fall. On Wednesday, Oct. 20, Wicky and co. will visit FC Cincinnati at West End Stadium, which opens officially on May 16. They’ll then square off against long-time foes Columbus Crew SC at their new Crew Stadium in the final match of the regular season on Sunday, Nov. 7.