Marco Pappa
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Fire's Pappa inks pre-contract agreement with Heerenveen

Marco Pappa has found the next step in his young career. He’ll just have to wait a few months for it to begin.

The Chicago Fire announced on Monday that Pappa, who has six goals and three assists this season, had signed a pre-contract with Dutch Eredivisie side SC Heerenveen. The 24-year-old Guatemalan will join the club when the winter transfer window opens on January 1, 2013.

Through 110 career MLS games, Pappa has 26 goals and 14 assists for the Fire. And although he will be staying in Chicago through the end of 2012, he said he doesn’t plan on letting up despite the fact that his future is now decided.

Chicago will retain Pappa’s MLS rights after making the winger a qualifying offer.

GOAL: Pappa applies calm finish

“I’m very excited about taking the next step in my career and signing with SC Heerenveen,” Pappa said in a statement. “My focus is with the Fire and working hard to secure a spot in the MLS Cup Playoffs.

"The Fire gave me a great opportunity in 2008 and I am thankful to Fire owner Andrew Hauptman and Frank Klopas for the support and encouragement they have offered the past four years. I plan to do the club proud and put everything I have into the remaining matches with the Fire.”

Pappa joined the Fire in July 2008 on loan from CSD Municipal in his native Guatemala, and the move was made permanent in December 2009. He’s never scored fewer than five goals over the course of a full season while spending most of his time on the left wing. He was named an MLS All-Star in 2010 and started for the MLS squad against Manchester United in Houston.

While catching the eye of foreign admirers, Pappa has also become an integral part of the Guatemalan national team, accumulating 28 caps and five goals for Los Chapines.

"Marco is a great player and has been a big part of the club for the last four years," Fire president of soccer operations Javier Leon said in a statement." Marco is a true professional and has really developed as a player while with the Fire.

“We understand Marco’s desire to play in Europe and fully support his move to Holland. It was key for us to keep Marco through the end of the season as we push for a spot in the MLS Cup Playoffs. We are grateful for his contributions to the club and believe Marco will represent the Fire well in Europe.”

The situation closely mirrors that of current Fire forward Chris Rolfe, who signed a pre-contract agreement with Danish side Aalborg BK during the 2009 season before playing out the remainder of the year. Rolfe then returned to Chicago this April.