Growing Up

Ben Burton on the Fire as a teenager

Twenty
years ago, Major League Soccer was just a thought in the minds of a few
potential investors.  Fifteen years
ago the league kicked off its first season.  Ten years ago our beloved Chicago Fire had already won
multiple championships and now in 2010, we have a teenager in the house.

Oh,
how time does fly.

No
longer the new kid on the block and not yet an adult, we're entering the era of
our youth when we truly define what we will become as an adult.  We've tasted both victory and defeat
during our formative years but this off season is our first as a teenager and
perhaps it's time to begin down the path to adulthood.

A
birthday is a celebration of years past but also a time to reflect on change
and a coming of age.  As we grow up
we're stretching beyond our youthful beginnings and need to reach towards the
future. Today we can celebrate our history and our successes as we will likely
have an uncomfortably long offseason to think about the "what ifs" of
this current season.  But what I
think will be most important in the close season is how the club builds on this
history to solidify our identity and where we stand in the pantheon of world
soccer.  This offseason we need the
club to decide what steps we will take to plan for the next five years and
beyond.

The
organization could settle for being another successful professional sports team
in an already glutted Chicago market or simply to be the best in MLS.  Looking back on our first thirteen
years though, there were glimpses of much more. We've been an incredibly
successful team on the pitch for a long time.

We've
been a club that nurtures young talent and the "birthplace" of many
US National Team players. We've sent many players off to successful careers in
Europe.  We're the Kings of the US
Open Cup and our supporters are second to none. We're steeped in tradition but
where will all of this history lead the club?

The
last of the Fire originals could be retiring after this season.  The end of an era.  Once gone, will this club cast off the
"baggage" of years past or will we embrace our history and use it as
a stepping stone forward?  We've
built a strong foundation, one to be proud of and one worth celebrating.  I'm looking forward to seeing the club
build upon that foundation and growing the next decade's worth of tradition and
success.

Happy
Birthday to the Chicago Fire Soccer Club.