Fire owner Andrew Hauptman answers your questions. Check out his answers below:
From Section 8 Chicago.
What led you to shift the focus of the Chicago Fire towards being more of club with an integrated youth and development system?
This is how great teams become perennially successful. MLS's Home Grown Player Initiative has given clubs incentive to nurture and bring along local talent. Although this is a long-term initiative, we were recently pleased to sign Victor Pineda as the club's first-ever Home Grown player. Victor is a talent, someone I've seen play a number of times for our U16 National Championship team and most importantly, he's worn the Chicago Fire badge on his chest longer than most of his new teammates on the first team. He's passionate and familiar with our style of play as he's grown up and progressed through the Fire system. The full integration of our youth programs into the club has been a top priority for us, as I do believe this is the path to winning more championships in the future.
From Section 8 Chicago.
Do you think that the league is headed down a path towards the old NASL with the proliferation of DP signings and smaller market clubs not willing to spend the money to keep up with NY, LA, Chicago?
This is a common and fair question among fans that worry about the league repeating mistakes of the old North American Soccer League. MLS is organized structurally in a way that helps teams avoid previous missteps. Moreover, today MLS has a business, branding and franchise model that is unparalleled in its sophistication and success from previous chapters of U.S. professional soccer.
In my opinion, the allowance for Designated Players in MLS has brought about a greater excitement and credibility to our league. Our supporters expect an ever improving quality of play not to mention the fact that DPs and other standout players drive interest from TV broadcasters and sponsors.
Mike Bennett asks via Facebook.
How does Andrew plan to bring the Fire another MLS Cup and how does he feel about the team not taking the US Open Cup seriously as of late?
I appreciate and understand your frustration. Let's make this clear - as a club, and personally as the owner, we're very disappointed about our recent performance in the Open Cup. Everyone at the Fire takes losing seriously. We have a proud and storied history of winning, and we play the Cup to win every time. This year we were challenged by injury and regular season play. We were only able to dress 17 players due to injury for our U.S. Open Cup match with Charleston, which was sandwiched midweek between two away matches at New England and Columbus. To say the game came at a bad time in our season would be an understatement.
Steve Ferguson asks via Facebook.
Where are your short term goals for the club, say five years out?
That's a good question because while we need to be focused on the season at hand, it's important to have a vision for your club. First and foremost, we want to win championships. Honestly, I'd like our club to win a championship every year. That may be too ambitious, but we certainly must have that mentality.
Secondly, we need to be focused on elevating the profile of our club in the Chicago market - as the Fire deserves to be treated and respected as much as any other professional sports team in the City. Building strong connectivity across the Chicago community is critical to this goal, and we continue to work to ensure that the Fire is involved in the community in meaningful ways, especially with regards to our youth.
Lastly, I want to see continued progress made in building our relationship with our supporters. They are the lifeblood of our club. I feel that we have made tremendous progress inspiring passion and loyalty, and in turn, our entire organization is inspired by our supporters. I can only hope that in five years our relationship with Fire fans is stronger than ever.
Reuben Hussman asks via E-Mail.
How often are you in Chicago? What is your favorite restaurant when in town?
I visit quite often actually. I've been in Chicago for a good chunk of the season. Chicago has so many terrific restaurants it's hard to choose favorites but lately Gibson's and Pelago are two places I really enjoy.
Patricia Sheridan asks via Facebook.
Do you ever plan on moving to Chicago so you can be in direct contact with the team and not across the country?
My family and I live in Los Angeles but a big part of our heart is in Chicago. I love Chicago and I spend as much time as I can here - it is my home away from home.
Sean Spence asks via Facebook...
With 11 games to play, the Fire are outside of the playoffs looking in. Assuming this does not change and given the investments in staff and roster in the last 12 months, would that be merely disappointing or completely unacceptable?
We have the same goal every season: to win and to win big. It's no secret that I have high expectations. I want the Fire to be a world-class organization on- and off-the-field. But this isn't a zero sum game. You can't be complacent, as you have to sometimes fail in order to succeed. Making adjustments and changes is just part of our pursuit of the MLS Cup.
Recently, we've invested in players like Nery Castillo and Freddie Ljungberg and brought back Gonzalo Segares. I believe we have a strong team right now with a great deal of young talent and I think we're still in the hunt for the MLS playoffs.
Reuben Hussman asks via E-Mail.
What is the hardest part about owning a professional sports team?
Great question. It's an easy answer - losing. Like any Fire fan, it hurts to lose.