With the recent announcement of Major League Soccer's Jersey Week, a lot has been raised regarding the club's plans for future kits as well as a potential third jersey. We at Always on the Inside caught up with the club's Chief Operating Officer Atul Khosla to shed some light on future jersey plans.
Always on the Inside: MLS announced that as part of a league initiative a number of clubs would be participating in a Jersey Week celebration kicking off on Monday, Feb. 25. What does that mean for Fire supporters?
Atul Khosla: The league is moving to a yearly jersey launch cycle, where every club will roll out a new jersey each year. It will rotate, primary/home one year, secondary/away the next year. Therefore, each jersey is in market for a total of two years. This new approach allows a fresh product in market every year. Since the Fire launched both new kits last year, we are on an off cycle this year, similar to a number of other teams. As of next year, we will be back on cycle, and we will launch a new home kit.
PERUSE: Chicago Fire Jersey History
AOTI: Can you talk about the merchandise progress the club has made in the past few years and how you see it developing further?
AK: We want to see Chicago Fire jerseys everywhere in Chicagoland. We want people to represent our club by wearing our colors in the community, at games and around town. It’s been a key for us to grow our merchandise and we’ve seen success over the past three years because of a number of factors.
First was design. We have tried to refresh the product line, bring back some original Chicago touches, and at the same time push the envelope in being edgier with our brand. As part of these strides the club has built a Fan Shop at Toyota Park, grown its online presence and built a partnership with Fanatics, Inc.. It has also been key for us to integrate merch and our products throughout our marketing efforts, on television and at the stadium. These actions have resulted in solid growth and we now have to continue to build on it.
AOTI: It’s a question that is raised from time to time from some Fire supporters, what’s going on with the Chicago Fire flag third kit?
AK: We hear and understand the request from some of our supporter base for a third Fire kit, especially one that from a design standpoint has strong ties to the city of Chicago. This is precisely why over the past few years we have added key Chicago elements to our uniforms. Starting in 2010 the club worked closely with adidas to have the four, six-sided stars of the Chicago flag adorn the bottom left of the white secondary/away tops.
The current secondary/away kit includes a number of elements from the Chicago flag including horizontal lines that are created by using the stripes and four stars from the civic flag representing Fort Dearborn, the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 and the Century of Progress Exposition of 1933. These details were created to pay homage to the city and the club’s origins. I believe it’s the first time outside of a third kit that our jerseys have ever had the municipal flag woven into the design.There is tremendous and deep civic pride, and the Club will continue to build on the traditions of soccer, our supporters, our club and Chicago.
AOTI: With that said, are you saying that Fire doesn't need a third kit?
AK: No. What I am saying is that the primary reason for creating a third kit would be to engage our fans in a unique way. Also, we need to take into account the practical considerations of the true demand for this product so we can meet the minimum requirements from adidas before we place the order. Since we just released new kits last year, we wanted to focus on our new designs and pace things appropriately to avoid flooding the market.
The most successful way to create a third kit, is for us to collaborate with our supporters, get everyone energized, and create the demand. In order to initiate this movement, in the coming weeks we will be launching a social campaign asking supporters to help us design a potential third kit, vote for their favorites, and then rally each other to make a commitment by putting a deposit down.
Stay tuned to Chicago-Fire.com and our social channels. We need everyone's support to make this happen and are excited to collaborate with you and create something we can all be proud of.
The Section 8 Chicago Annual General Meeting is set for this Saturday, January 26 at 1pm in the Stadium Club at Toyota Park.
Open to ALL FIRE FANS, the AGM serves as a way for the Independent Supporters Association to discuss the past year and ftuture plans for supporter's culture. Its also when the ISA elects its board members for the coming year.
Along with the supporters activities, this year Chicago Fire Chief Operating Officer Atul Khosla will hold a Q&A session with those in attendance and you never know when someone from the first team may do a live look-in from Ave Maria, Fla...
Don't have a ride from the city? The ISA will be running a bus from Cleo's Chicago (1935 W. Chicago). Stay tuned to Section8Chicago.com or follow them on Twitter (@Section8Chicago) for more details in the coming days.
59 Days until Opening Night at Toyota Park
54 Days until First Kick in Los Angeles
12 Days until the First Team departs for training camp in Ave Maria, Fla.
These are important beginning of the year days but none are as close as the 2013 MLS SuperDraft in Indianapolis which is now literally right around the corner next Thursday, January 17.
With the event being so close to our fair city, Section 8 Chicago is running a bus to and from the SuperDraft for just $10 (departing Toyota Park at 7AM and returning at 9pm).
Admission to the actual draft is FREE and signups are beginning to go quickly.
So...get on the bus and you’ll be the first fans able to greet (and indoctrinate) the newest member of the Fire like these folks did with the future MLS Rookie of the Year last year in Kansas City…
Convinced yet? Sign up here and see you in Indy!
Well its the last day of the year and we're aptly left remembering all that went down in the Fire world during 2012.
A new jersey sponsor, a Ring of Fire induction, a 15th Anniversary, playoff qualification and a Rookie of the Year winner are just some of the highlights.
Take a photographic look back on the club's memorable 15th season:
Stay tuned on Tuesday as I give my New Year's Resolutions for the Fire in 2013!
One of the final pieces of business for Section 8 Chicago every calendar year is to finalize the candidate listing for the board elections which take place at the ISA’s Annual General Meeting set for the last weekend of January every year.
Much like American presidential candidates have a deadline to declare candidacy in order to receive federal funding, Section 8 board candidates had to declare their intention to run by posting to the ISA’s forums by midnight on Thursday.
The deadline came and went Thursday night with all eight positions having at least one candidate running. While most are unopposed, two positions, Director of Finance and Director of Marketing will have election races.
Don’t like the American style two-party system? An interesting play in the Section 8 board elections is that candidates also list their group affiliation.
Though there are a number of different supporters groups that make up the umbrella of Section 8 Chicago, three (Ultras Red Side, Whiskey Brothers Aught Five and Westmont Ultras) are represented along with a number of folks who have no group affiliation (Independents).
In the coming weeks, candidates will lay out the plans they have for their positions via the Section 8 forums ahead of the AGM to be held January 26 (location to be confirmed). ALL Fire supporters are encouraged to attend the AGM and allowed to vote on board positions.
Find below the list of candidacies as well as their group affiliations and follow the race via the Section 8 forum:
Chair: Joel Biden * / Independent
Vice-Chair: Jeffrey Marinacci * / Independent
Communications: Nick Fedora / Whiskey Brothers ‘05
Events: Annie West / Independent
Finance: 1) Merrie Bunt / Ultras Red Side 2) Josue Gomez ** / Westmont Ultras
Operations: Eric Kekeis / Ultras Red Side
Marketing: 1) Frank Cardenas / Whiskey Brothers ‘05 2) Marty Groark * / Independent
Merchandise: Freddy Coba / Ultras Red Side
* - Incumbent ** - Current Board Member, new position
Good luck to all candidates!
With today's league-wide announcement of MLS First Kick and Home Opening matches, we wanted to take a photgraphic look back at some of the team's previous matches to open their season...
Over the last few years, tifo displays have become a rather large part of showcasing the vibrancy of a club’s supporters.
Long before tifo became the backdrop for so many wire photos and national broadcasts, it was Section 8 Chicago that helped to pioneer the movement in MLS circles.
It’s hard to forget some of the very memorable displays the ISA has come up with over the years: Super Mario Bros., “La Vida es un Carnivale”, “Tonight, We Reignite the Fire” and the Diversity display are just a few.
While all of those are very elaborate displays that take months of planning and work, much more simple displays (referred to as two-poles for the mechanisms that hold them in the air) have also become staples of the Harlem End.
Personal favorites of mine are the Stewie Griffin (right), The Blues Brothers and even my own special display that made its way into the Section earlier this year.
As we head towards the 2013 season, Section 8 is holding a Tifo Workshop this Sunday, December 16 from noon to 7pm at ChiTown Futbol (2255 S. Throop) in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood.
The workshop is open to all Fire fans who wish to create where their own two-pole or wall banner to hang at Fire matches. Folks that come out can also learn more about the work involved in creating the larger, aforementioned tifo displays that decorate the stadium from time to time.
The Banner Workshop will run from 12 noon until 7PM, and Tifo Crew members will be on hand to help you with your project. Bring your design on a USB flash drive or on a computer that has an HDMI output. Supplies will be provided by Section 8 Chicago.
Check out this video from the Tifo Crew Workshop held at ChiTown in Feburary…
See you Sunday!
Despite going into its third-year of existence, the MLS Re-Entry process still leaves plenty of folks scratching their heads every December. I'll try to explain the ins and outs ahead of today's Stage One Draft...
What is it?
The Re-Entry Process is confusing because its also unique in terms of North American sport. The idea came as a compromise to help settle the latest Collect Bargaining Agreement in early 2010.
In essence, the Re-Entry Process is Major League Soccer's form of free agency, allowing players that meet certain requirements the opportunity to test the waters of moving to another team. Prior to the signing of the current CBA, teams still held league rights to players that were out of contract, meaning that in order for a player to move, a team would need to waive his rights or a trade would have to occur.
Under the new terms, players that have played a minimum of three years in MLS and are at least 23 years of age are eligible for the annual Re-Entry process should their current team decline their option or if they're out of contract. Full eligibility requirements for players can be found in Section II.G here.
There are two stages to the Re-Entry Process, each with different caveats...
Explaining Stage One
Thursday night MLS released the final list of players eligible for Stage One of the 2012 Re-Entry Process set for Friday at 2 p.m. CT. Prior to the release, players had up until 4 p.m. CT Thursday to opt out of the draft.
This was the case for Gonzalo Segares, who re-signed with the club on Thursday. With that transaction, two Fire players, midfielder Corben Bone and goalkeeper Jay Nolly, remained on the list of 52 players eligible for selection.
UPDATE: As of 1:30 p.m. CT, Fire defender Dan Gargan was added to the Stage One Re-Entry list by the league.
Teams that pick players at Stage One on Friday must exercise the option (pick up the player's salary), or in the case of out of contract players, extend a Bona Fide Offer to, the player. If the player rejects the offer, the drafting club will hold the right of first refusal for that player in MLS (the player's league rights). Teams may not select their own players in Stage One of the Re-Entry Draft.
Held via conference call, generally Stage One of the Re-Entry Process is a quick affair, with only five players having been selected in the previous two stages combined. This is generally because of the first caveat above, by which a team must pick up the salary of a player's whose option hae been declined (the majority of players available fall under this category).
Players that are not selected in Stage One are then able to come back to the table with their club and negotiate up until a second blackout period begins on Thursday, December 13 at 4 p.m. CT.
After passing through the first stage of Re-Entry in 2010, Jovan Kirovski re-negotiated his contract to stay with the LA Galaxy another season, prior to Stage Two.
Expaining Stage Two
This is where the magic happens as Stage Two of the Re-Entry Process is one of the biggest days of player movement within the league every year.
In 2010, 11 players were chosen in Stage Two while 10 were take in 2011.
Set for next Friday, December 14 at 2 p.m. CT, players that are selected in Stage Two can negotiate a new salary with the team that has chosen them. As long as that salary is deemed as a genuine offer by MLS, the team retains the player's league rights.
A genuine offer must be placed within seven days of selection, though a signing doesn't necessarily need to happen in that time as negotiations can continue.
A team is eliminated from Stage Two once they pass on their turn. A team can only select it's own player once all other clubs have passed on that player.
Players that pass through both stages of the Re-Entry process are deemed free agents and available on a first-come, first-served basis to all MLS teams.
Fire History in the Re-Entry Process
The Fire have selected two players through the Re-Entry Process and both had different cases.
In 2011, the Fire picked forward Kheli Dube, also from New England but the Zimbabwean forward didn't sign a contract with the club until late January as the two parties negotiated terms of the deal.
The team has also had two players selected from it in the Re-Entry Process.
In 2011, the Fire saw midfielder Baggio Husidic and goalkeeper Jon Conway chosen in Stage Two by the Colorado Rapids and LA Galaxy respectively. Neither player signed with those clubs as Husidic elected to sign for Swedish side Hammarby while Conway announced his retirement.
The MLS Regular Season Schedule may not yet be out, but the Fire already have three opponents scheduled for next eyar after the Charleston Battery released the match schedule for the 2013 Carolina Challenge Cup.
Participating for the third straight season in one of North America's top preseason tournaments, the Fire will open up the tournament with an MLS Cup playoff re-match with the Houston Dynamo on Saturday, February 16 at 5:00pm ET (4:00pm CT).
See below the full tournament schedule:
Saturday, February 16
Chicago Fire vs. Houston Dynamo, 5 PM/4 PM CT
Charleston Battery vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC, 7:15 PM/6:15 PM CT
Wednesday, February 20
Houston Dynamo vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC, 5 PM/4 PM CT
Charleston Battery vs. Chicago Fire, 7:15 PM/6:15 PM CT
Saturday, Feb 23
Chicago Fire vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC, 5 PM/4 PM CT
Charleston Battery vs. Houston Dynamo, 7:15 PM/6:15 PM CT
If you've never been to the Charleston Battery's home at Blackbaud Stadium, I highly recommend heading south to catch a Fire match and take in the amazing Three Lions Pub. Tickets for the tournament go on sale next Monday, December 3 at 9am CT via www.charlestonbattery.com or by calling (843) 971-GOAL (4625)
When we unveiled the #Fire15 players list in conjunction with the club’s 15th anniversary earlier this year, I spoke about how spectacular most of the goals Marco Pappa scored in a Fire uniform were. Off the top of my head, I can think of only three that the Guatemalan scored from inside of the box in his five seasons in Chicago.
Since the Fire Goal of the Year tournament began in 2010, Pappa has always had at least one entry make the final four with the current Heerenveen midfielder getting there with high margin defeats of his early-round opponents.
Ironically enough though, that support seems to wane in later rounds.
In 2010, Pappa's bending strike against San Jose (which went on to win MLS Goal of the Year) was narrowly defeated in the final by Logan Pause's equally stunning long-distance bomb at Toronto.
Last year, Pappa's hat trick clincher at Real Salt Lake (one of his four entries in the tournament that year) fell at the semi-final stage to the now legendary long-distance blast "through the guise of smoke" from Jalil Anibaba in an early round U.S. Open Cup qualifier vs. Colorado.
At the very least, it’s an interesting phenomenon.
I say that because having managed the Fire Facebook and Twitter accounts for nearly three years, there is no player that evoked as much consistent response in terms of Likes, Retweets and web traffic then Marco. An update on his play in a friendly with Guatemala, a photo of him from training or even a post about another player would even bring a comment or six about “El Chapin del Fuego”.
With Pappa no longer a member of the Fire, this has all died down a bit but how ironic when you consider that his latest defeat came against a player that could take on the mantel of sentimental popularity in 2012 MLS Rookie of the Year Austin Berry.
Berry has barnstormed to today’s final, where he’s facing down another fan favorite in the team’s 2012 MVP Chris Rolfe and his stunning quick kick in little space (9/22 vs. Columbus).
While Rolfe’s goal could have been a number one seed (his strike vs. San Jose was), neither of today’s finalists were top seeds in their respective brackets. As we learn every November, anyone can win.
As we have when deciding the top 15 players, goals and matches in Fire history or just putting fans on season tickets, we at Chicago-Fire.com feel it most important to utilize fan input and engagement in determining valuable pieces of our club.
Happy voting everyone!