CHICAGO - The Chicago Fire has announced tentative plans for the club's 2005 preseason training schedule, which will kick off with a weeklong camp at its training facility in north suburban Lake Forest on Tuesday, Feb. 1. After the new-look Fire squad gathers in Chicagoland, the team will head to warmer climates for the remainder of the two-month preseason period, with trips to Bradenton, FL; Jackson, MS and Guadalajara, Mexico on the team's itinerary.
The Fire's first trip will be a three-week excursion to the IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL from Feb. 7-25. Four exhibition opponents have been confirmed, with the Fire set to take on the University of Central Florida (Feb. 10), the U.S. Under-17 National Team (Feb. 14), an MLS opponent to be named (Feb. 16) and the U.S. Under-20 National Team (Feb. 19) in matches to take place at the IMG Academy. A date and opponent for a possible fifth exhibition match in South Florida will be announced at a later date.
Following a brief return to Chicago in late February, the "Men in Red" will head south of the border for an 11-day trip to Guadalajara, Mexico from Mar. 1-11. During the team's journey south of the border, the Fire is expected to participate in three scrimmages against opponents from Mexican First and Second Division sides. All dates and opponents for the exhibition matches during the Guadalajara-leg of the preseason schedule will be announced in the upcoming weeks.
After a week back in the Windy City, the Fire will make its return to Jackson, MS for the final camp of the 2005 preseason from Mar. 18-26. Plans for an exhibition contest are in the works and will be announced at a later date. Chicago made its first appearance in the "Magnolia State" during the 2004 preseason, when the Fire fell 1-0 to the then-Dallas Burn in front of an enthusiastic crowd of more than 6,000 fans at Freedom Ridge Park in Ridgeland, MS. The return to Jackson will once again mark the homecoming of Fire midfielder Justin Mapp, who honed his soccer skills while growing up in nearby Brandon, MS.
The Fire will return to Chicago over Easter weekend and renew its training schedule at Lake Forest College on Monday, Mar. 28 in preparation for its MLS season opener, which takes place against rival FC Dallas on Saturday, Apr. 2 at 7:30 p.m. CT at Soldier Field in Chicago. The Chicago-Dallas contest will not only open a new chapter in the "Brimstone Cup" rivalry between the two clubs, but will also mark the beginning of the Fire's last season in historic Soldier Field before the team moves to a new, 20,000-seat stadium in the Chicago Southland community of Bridgeview in the Spring of 2006.
Chicago Fire 2005 Preseason Calendar (Dates subject to change)
Feb. 1 - Feb. 6: Training Camp at Lake Forest College in Lake Forest, IL (Times TBD)
Feb. 7 - Feb. 25: Training Camp at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL
Mar. 1 - Mar. 11: Training Camp in Guadalajara, Mexico
Mar. 18 - Mar. 26: Training Camp in Jackson, MS
Monday, Mar. 28: Training at Lake Forest College practice facility begins (Time TBD)
Saturday, Apr. 2: MLS First Kick 2005 - Fire vs. FC Dallas at Soldier Field in Chicago, 7:30 p.m. CT