CHICAGO - The Chicago Fire Youth Development Program has announced that its newly-founded Senior Development Program (Under-23) squad will face off against the Croatian Olympic (Under-21) Team in an exhibition match on Saturday, June 11. The Fire Juniors-Croatia contest is scheduled for a 1:30 p.m. CT kick-off at Winnemac Stadium, located at 5101 N. Leavitt Street, in Chicago. For more information, or to purchase tickets for the match, fans should call the event hotline at 773-572-8870. Tickets cost $25.
"The Chicago Fire are honored and very excited to be participating in match of this caliber," said Chicago Fire Director of Player Development, Roland Hahn. "Playing against some of the best young talent in all of Europe will be an unforgettable experience for our youngsters."
The Chicago Fire Senior Development squad is part of the MLS club's youth development program, the Chicago Fire Juniors. The Fire Juniors is the official youth club of the Fire and the only club of its kind in Major League Soccer, with a fully integrated pyramid of player development from U-8 to the professional level. The Fire Senior Developmental Squad is a continuation of the Fire Juniors' Under-23 squad that made its debut in the spring of 2004.
"This match will provide a great opportunity for our club to see where we stand against one of the best Under-21 sides in the world," said Fire Senior Developmental Program Head Coach Larry Sunderland. "Croatia is bringing all of their top talent over, so it's a big show for them. But we are optimistic that, with the talent we have assembled, we will provide them with a competitive match."
The match will mark the first visit by a Croatian National Team to the United States for a full international match. Croatia, currently ranked 21st in the FIFA world rankings, is expected to bring a full-strength squad to Chicago for the historic match. Croatia has ranked as high as seven in the FIFA rankings in the last several years.
"We are proud to be part of this historical event," said Aljosa Asanovic, Assistant Coach for the Croatian squad and former midfielder for Croatia's National Team that won bronze at the World Cup in 1998. "This will be a unique experience for Chicago soccer fans to see one of Europe's premier teams take the field against a proven local club."