The Chicago Fire will play in front of the largest crowd in team history on Saturday, when they take on Manchester United in a Herbalife World Football Challenge match at Soldier Field (5 pm ET, ESPN/Deportes).
Fire club president Julian Posada said Thursday evening that the team had sold 60,000 tickets and expects to sell the remaining 1,500 prior to the match against the English giants. The Fire’s previous biggest crowd was 54,432 for a doubleheader in 2005 featuring the Fire against the Columbus Crew and Chivas vs. Real Madrid.
The big crowd won’t faze Manchester United, who demolished the Seattle Sounders 7-0 in front of a crowd of 67,052 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle on Wednesday night.
The Fire enter Saturday’s match coming off of one of their most frustrating defeats of the season, a mentally crushing 1-0 home loss to the expansion Portland Timbers last Saturday.
But Chicago got their heads back in order this week, and the team is now looking forward to the match — and a possible feel-good performance — against Man. United.
“It’s all about being ready for the challenge,” Fire defender Cory Gibbs said. “It’ll prepare our younger players for big opportunities in the future and [let them] know what it’s going to feel like to play in front of 60,000, and to play against the best players in the world.”
“I’m getting goose bumps thinking about it,” Gibbs added. “I think our fans deserve it … and that it will be a great opportunity.”
The match will be the third of the preseason and the second of the World Football Challenge for United, who, used a powerful second half surge to defeat Seattle 7-0 on Wednesday in an international friendly. They also topped New England 4-1 in the WFC opener last week.
The Red Devils scored six second half goals on Wednesday, getting three from start striker Wayne Rooney, who came into the game at halftime.
Despite Wednesday’s unreal final score, United aren’t getting big-headed for their match against the Fire.
"There's a lot of experience on our team and we've been in situations before where we've won by a big number in the previous game," striker Michael Owen said Thursday. "I think the experience will show that we don't take anything for granted, and I'm sure it will be a tight game."
Chicago Fire: Dominic Oduro
The Ghanaian winger/forward has world-class speed and figures to trouble the Man. United defense a time or two on the counterattack, especially if United’s outside backs get too far forward.
Manchester United: Wayne Rooney
Rooney scored three goals in 45 minutes against a reserve-laden Seattle lineup on Wednesday and will be looking to do the same on Saturday. He might need to work a little bit harder against the Fire’s defense — which, apart from being the team’s strength, should feature all four starters for the majority of the match.