In only its third year in existence, Major League Soccer was ready to expand and added franchises in Miami and Chicago in 1998. The Chicago Fire, named after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, has become one of the most successful teams in the league's history. The team began play in 1998 at the storied Soldier Field, home of the NFL's Chicago Bears. Little did the Chicago faithful know that the Fire would be a catalyst in the growth of professional soccer in the city and bring a wholly unexpected championship to the Windy City.
The Fire pulled off one of the most amazing feats in professional sports during their inaugural season, when they became the fastest expansion team in U.S. history to win a championship. The Fire finished with a 20-12 record in the regular season, buoyed by the stellar play of forward Peter Nowak. After squeaking by the Colorado Rapids in the first round of the playoffs, the Fire shocked the LA Galaxy, who were widely considered to be the best team in the league at that point. During the MLS Cup, the Fire went up against defending champion DC United and surged ahead to a 2-0 lead. Thanks to exemplary goaltending by Zack Thornton, the Fire were able to close out DC United and pull off one of the most surprising seasons in sports history.
After the Fire's amazing championship run in 1998, they would make two more appearances in the MLS Cup in 2000 and 2003. Additionally, the team's 11 playoff appearances over the course of their history shows how well the team has been able to accumulate talent over the years. While the team hasn't been able to repeat the magic of their inaugural year, they are still one of the most dangerous teams in the MLS and are always in the thick of the championship hunt each year.
While the Fire haven't been to the playoffs since 2009, the team has steadily built a solid roster of young players that look like they could contend for another title in the near future. Fire fans can also enjoy the beautiful venue, Toyota Field, which is the first soccer-specific stadium built in the city of Chicago. The team's future certainly looks bright, and Fire fans are ready to see if their team has what it takes to bring home their second MLS Cup in the coming years.