Ben Burton

Growing Up

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.