Major League Soccer released the 2005 regular-season schedule Monday featuring 192 games which will be played between Saturday, Apr. 2 and Sunday, Oct. 16. The Chicago Fire have also announced that its MLS home opener at Soldier Field, originally scheduled against FC Dallas on Apr. 2, will now take place on Saturday, Apr. 16 versus the San Jose Earthquakes.
The date change of the Soldier Field opener was forced due to construction delays that will postpone the Grand Opening date of FC Dallas's new stadium at the Frisco Soccer & Entertainment Center until Aug. 6, and the subsequent schedule changes that resulted in FC Dallas moving six home games for the 2005 season to the Cotton Bowl. While the Fire and FC Dallas were originally scheduled to begin their 2005 MLS campaigns at Soldier Field on Saturday, Apr. 2, the two teams have agreed to move their opening day "Brimstone Cup" clash to the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, TX, with kick-off now set for 7:30 p.m. CT.
"We hope that the two-week delay in the home opener will allow for better weather," said Fire President and GM Peter Wilt. "This schedule is still susceptible to change due to the potential conflicts with the NFL schedule and other events to be scheduled by Soldier Field. All changes are expected to be completed by early April when the NFL schedule is announced."
Chicago will open its 2005 campaign with five of its first six League matches on the road, including a Week 2 trip that takes the Fire to the nation's capital to face off against defending MLS Cup champions D.C. United. The Fire will then reverse its road-weary ways with five out of the next six contests to be played at Soldier Field. Included in that home stretch are Eastern Conference match-ups against the MetroStars (May 14) and the New England Revolution (May 25) and the lone Chicago appearance by the League's newest member CD Chivas USA, on Saturday, June 4.
The Fire will square off against the Kansas City Wizards as a division foe for the first since 1999, with the first of their four Eastern Conference showdowns set for Saturday, June 18 at Soldier Field. One week later the Fire will host Real Salt Lake in the expansion team's lone visit to Chicago on June 26. The Fire will travel to The Home Depot Center in Carson, CA for its first-ever road tilt at CD Chivas USA on July 2, a match that will be a part of the League's popular July 4th weekend slate of games.
Following the MLS All-Star Game on Saturday, July 30, the Fire will start the month of August with another three-game homestand that will begin on Saturday, Aug. 6 against D.C. United, giving Chicago fans the first of two chances in 2005 to see second-year phenom Freddy Adu in person at Soldier Field. Chicago will round out the busy month on Sunday, Aug. 28 with a match against the MetroStars featuring the third induction into the "Ring of Fire," the Fire's Hall of Fame that currently holds former captain Peter Nowak and hometown hero Frank Klopas as its lone inductees.
Chicago will wrap up its 2005 home schedule with heated rivalry contests against D.C. United on Sept. 24 and the Columbus Crew on Oct. 8 before rounding out its League slate at the same place its year ended last season, Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, MA, against the New England Revolution on Saturday, Oct. 15.
The Fire will release kickoff times and its 2005 television schedule and broadcast partners in the near future. Along with its 32-game MLS regular season schedule, the Fire will also be competing for its fourth title in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in 2005. The U.S. Soccer Federation has announced that the three-time champion Fire will open up play in the country's oldest Cup competition on Wednesday, July 13 in the tournament's third round.