Chicago Fire to host FC Dallas in 2005 MLS season opener

CHICAGO - Major League Soccer recently unveiled the full slate of six matches scheduled for the opening weekend of the 2005 regular season. The Chicago Fire will host FC Dallas in a Brimstone Cup showdown on Saturday, Apr. 2 at 7:30 p.m. CT to kick-off the Fire's eighth MLS campaign in the first of 16 home games at Soldier Field, where the "Men in Red" will play through 2005 before moving to its permanent home in Bridgeview in the Spring of 2006. MLS's 10th season will open with First Kick 2005 and the highly anticipated first game in the history of Club Deportivo Chivas USA as they play host to MLS Cup champion D.C. United at The Home Depot Center on Apr. 2 in a match to be broadcast live on ABC Sports (2:00 p.m. CT). The complete 2005 regular season schedule will be released in January.

With the fierce rivalry that has developed between the Fire and Dallas over the years, it should be no surprise that the series between the two Brimstone Cup combatants, which the Fire trails by a 9-11-1 margin, is one of the closest in all of MLS. While the overall margin is close, Chicago will be looking to build on its 7-3-1 record at home.

"A Brimstone Cup match is a great way to open the season. Dallas is a fierce rival and our fans and team are eager to get the Brimstone Cup back in Chicago where it belongs," said Fire President and GM Peter Wilt. "This game will be significant in so many ways. It'll be a great event for our fans, who created the Brimstone Cup, and it will also mark the first game of our last season at Soldier Field, our original home and where we've enjoyed tremendous success over the years. We're anxious to kick-off 2005 with a bang."

The Brimstone Cup is awarded annually to the squad that takes the most points (3 for a win, 1 for a draw) in the season series between the two rivals, which includes MLS regular season, U.S. Open Cup and MLS Cup Playoff matches. Dallas currently possesses the coveted prize after winning both encounters in 2004.

"The home opener against Dallas is going to be very special," said Fire supporter Liam Murtaugh. "It's a great new era for both clubs. The Fire is preparing for its move-in to Bridgeview and FC Dallas will be playing in their brand new stadium this spring. The series itself is very exciting for all of us fans, because this is one of the most heated rivalries in all of MLS. We created the Brimstone Cup as a tribute to both clubs, because when the teams play against each other, whether it's in regular season, playoff or U.S. Open Cup competition, it's a very intense and exciting match."

The Chicago Fire was founded on October 8, 1997 as an MLS expansion team. In 2003 the Fire was crowned the MLS Supporters Shield Winner and Eastern Conference Champion and captured its third Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The Fire won the MLS Cup in its inaugural season in 1998 and the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in 1998, 2000 and 2003.

Headquartered in New York City, Major League Soccer features many top stars from the United States and around the world and is America's Division I men's outdoor professional soccer league. MLS consists of teams in 11 markets: CD Chivas USA, Chicago Fire, Colorado Rapids, Columbus Crew, D.C. United, FC Dallas, Kansas City Wizards, Los Angeles Galaxy, MetroStars, New England Revolution, Real Salt Lake and the San Jose Earthquakes. MLS will kick off its tenth season in April 2005. For more information about MLS, log on to the League's official Web site at www.MLSnet.com.

Fire Mascot to Participate in Comcast Sportsnet's "Mascot Challenge" on Jan. 7

The Chicago Fire's Mascot has been invited to participate in Comcast Sportsnet's first ever "Mascot Challenge" on Friday, Jan. 7 during halftime of the Chicago Bulls-Utah Jazz game. The "Mascot Challenge" will be televised live on Comcast SportsNet Channel 37 on Comcast Cable and in high-definition on Comcast Cable channel 175. The area's most beloved mascots will compete in a full-court match-up pitting Chicago's pro team mascots against the area's top collegiate mascots live from the United Center. The pro team mascot line-up includes: Benny the Bull (Bulls), Tommy Hawk (Blackhawks), Southpaw (White Sox), Sparky (Fire) and Striker (Storm).


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