Weekly update: Breaking ground

CHICAGO - • Fire, AEG and Bridgeview To Hold Historic Groundbreaking Tomorrow at 71st & Harlem
• Wednesday Final Day to Donate to Alexandre Boucicaut Hurricane Relief Fund for Haiti

Big Day in Bridgeview Set for Tuesday as Fire, AEG and the Village of Bridgeview Hold Groundbreaking Ceremony
The earth will move tomorrow at the corner of 71st Street and Harlem Avenue in Bridgeview, IL, where the Chicago Fire, its parent company, AEG, and the Village of Bridgeview will hold a groundbreaking ceremony to begin construction on a permanent home for the Fire. The groundbreaking ceremony, which will also serve to unveil the new stadium renderings to the public, will begin with a program beginning at 2:00 p.m. CT. Featured speakers at the ceremony will include Fire GM Peter Wilt, AEG President and CEO Timothy J. Leiweke, Village of Bridgeview Mayor Steve Landek and MLS Commissioner Don Garber. All speakers, in addition to Fire players and coaches to be announced later, will be made available to the media following the ceremony.

Construction for the 20,000-seat, $70 million world-class sports and entertainment venue will conclude with the grand opening of the stadium, which is scheduled for spring of 2006. The Fire will be the stadium's primary tenant, and the site will house the team's offices and official training center. AEG will operate and manage the stadium for the Village. The stadium will be a multi-purpose facility, serving as a major concert venue and a resource for the rapidly growing youth soccer communities and the Southland area at large.

MLS Expands Team Rosters to 28 Players, Increases Amount of Spots Available to Internationals
Major League Soccer has announced an expansion of team roster sizes and an increase in the number of international players allowed per team for the 2005 season. MLS team rosters will now consist of 28 players, an increase from 24 players in 2004, while the numbers of senior international players and youth international players allowed per team will also rise. Teams may begin to add international players to their rosters beginning this Wednesday, Dec. 1. For the 2005 season, each MLS team will have 28 total roster spots comprised of 18 senior players and 10 developmental players. Developmental players can only be 24 years old or younger. Starting next season each team will be allowed four senior internationals, foreign players not holding green cards who are 25 years of age and older during a given season - an increase from the three-man senior international limit in 2004. Every MLS team will also have three slots for youth international players, foreign players not holding green cards who are 24 years of age and younger during a given season. Youth international players can be signed to either senior player contracts or developmental player contracts. Of the 21 players currently on the Fire's roster, Dipsy Selolwane (Botswana) and Andy Herron (Costa Rica) occupy senior international slots, while Alexandre Boucicaut (Haiti) and Damani Ralph (Jamaica) are considered youth international players.

Donations to Boucicaut Hurricane Relief Fund for Haitian Relief to be Taken Through Wednesday
Chicago Fire and Haitian National Team midfielder Alexandre Boucicaut is spearheading a relief effort for victims of the hurricanes that have destroyed much of Haiti over the past two months. In conjunction with Illinois Youth Soccer, the Boucicaut Hurricane Relief Fund will be collecting soccer equipment and monetary donations to rebuild the Caribbean nation's youth soccer programs and provide relief to the island's beleaguered residents. After donating one of his MLS paychecks to help out his friends and family back home, Boucicaut is hoping to raise greater awareness of the difficult conditions in the country after the natural disasters caused heavy damage and killed more than 1,600 people. Those who wish to contribute either equipment or monetary donations have only a few days left to give, as the deadline for the receipt of all donations has been set for this Wednesday, Dec. 1. Boucicaut will be traveling back to his native Haiti later this week and will personally distribute the collected goods to youth soccer programs and the national youth soccer academy, while monetary donations will go to general relief efforts through non-profit organizations. The distribution event will provide a treat for Haitian children, as the 23-year-old soccer star enjoys the popularity of a national hero in the small Caribbean country.

New and gently used equipment can be shipped to:
Boucicaut Hurricane Relief Fund
c/o Illinois Youth Soccer
939 Industrial Drive
Bensenville, IL 60106

Monetary donations can be sent to:
Boucicaut Hurricane Relief Fund
c/o Illinois Youth Soccer
1655 S. Arlington Heights Rd.
Arlington Heights, IL 60005

(Checks can be made to Illinois Youth Soccer with "Boucicaut Hurricane Relief Fund" in the memo line.)

Monday Last Day to Vote for Trio of "Men in Red" for 17th Annual Chicago Sports Fans Choice Awards
Time is nearly up to vote for one of four members of the "Men in Red" - midfielder Chris Armas, defender Jim Curtin, midfielder Jesse Marsch and goalkeeper Henry Ring - who are among the nominees for the 17th Annual Chicago Sports Fans Choice Awards, sponsored by Sports Profiles Plus. Voting for the awards ends at midnight on Monday, Nov. 29, with the winners to be announced at this year's Chicago Sports Fans Choice Awards, to be held on Thursday, Dec. 9 at the Chicago Hyatt Regency O'Hare in Rosemont, IL. Armas, the Fire's captain, and Curtin, the 2004 Fire Defender of the Year winner, join a list of Chicago's most talented athletes among the candidates for Chicago's Most Valuable Player Award. After enjoying a breakout season in net for the Fire, Ring has deservedly earned his spot on the ballot for the Chicago's Rising Star Award, while Marsch's continued efforts in the community has earned him his second consecutive Humanitarian Award from Sports Profiles. Fans can turn in their votes for the Most Valuable Player and Rising Star categories online at

Fire Juniors Back From Morelia
Twenty-five players, coaches and staff members of the Chicago Fire Juniors returned from a weeklong excursion to Morelia, Mexico on Sunday morning after the program's first trip to the training home of Monarcas Morelia's famed youth program, the Fuerzas Basicas. During its seven-day stay in Central Mexico, the Fire Juniors squad, comprised of a mix of U-16 through U-18 Boys teams players, participated in three exhibition matches, in which they went 1-2-0 against teams from Monarcas (4th Division), Toluca (4th Division) and San Luis de Poto, an affiliate of the Morelia program. Other highlights on the trip for the CFJ's included taking in a practice session of Morelia's First Division squad, a tour of the 41,000-seat Morelos Stadium, and the inaugural "Turkey Bowl" football game between the CFJ and Fuerzas Basicas on Thanksgiving morning. Be sure to visit later this week for a feature story on this historic trip for MLS's most progressive youth soccer program.

• The FireWorks for Kids Foundation has announced that its Suitcase Party, scheduled for this Friday evening at Jaks Tap, has been cancelled.
• A number of Chicago connections are once again included among the finalists in 11 categories for the third annual 2004 "Best of U.S. Soccer" awards. Fans can fill out their ballots online at through Friday, Dec. 17. Ginger's Ale House will be looking to beat out nine other finalists and repeat in the "Best Soccer Bar" category, while at least 39,529 Chicagoland soccer fans have good reason to vote for the "Best U.S. Crowd," as that was the number in attendance at the Fire-U.S. Men's National Team Doubleheader at Soldier Field on July 11. Meanwhile, former Fire midfielder DaMarcus Beasley found his name in a couple of categories - "Best Game Performance" by a player (two-goal performance vs. Grenada on June 13) and the new "Best Fashion Statement" category (for his famed "7" medallion).

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