Much of the off-field discussion around the Chicago Fire has focused on their stadium situation and the possibility of a re-brand, including a name change.
Last week, the club announced a deal that returns the Fire to Soldier Field in downtown Chicago while also announcing that Joe Mansueto had bought full ownership of the club, giving the team a new majority owner. He initially bought a 49% stake last July.
So with the stadium sorted and new owner in place, focus shifts back toward the potential re-brand.
"As we moved downtown, the team thought it was prudent to take a look at the name and crest," Mansueto said on Extratime. "If you did want to change anything, when you move would be an opportune time to do it. They've been researching that diligently for the past year. From my perspective, I love the name. As a Chicagoan it means a lot to me, the Chicago Fire name. It cuts to the core of the identity of Chicago. ... The name is, to me, uniquely Chicago. I really love the name, but I'm going to let the management team take a look at the name, they'll present their findings, then we'll announce something in the fall."
Mansueto, who grew up in Chicago and is the executive chairman of Morningstar, an investment research firm based in Chicago, has high hopes for the club's future at Soldier Field.
"When you look around the league, you see Seattle and Atlanta filling up football-sized stadiums," Mansueto said. "If you look here in Chicago at Soldier Field, two top Mexican clubs — Chivas and Club America — sold out Soldier Field a few weeks ago. The US men's team lost to Mexico here in August, but it was full. The demand is there. We can fill this stadium if we do it right. ... We've had one hand tied behind our back with the location here in Chicago, so we're addressing that."
As for the club's fortunes on the field, Mansueto acknowledges building an MLS Cup-contending roster won't be cheap.
"You've got to invest to get top talent," Mansueto said. "It's a bit of an arms race in the competition for talent around the league, around the world. Getting top talent is something we'll be looking at. I realize it's an investment, but I think it'll be a great investment."
Why invest in soccer? Fire fans can thank his three kids.
"They started playing soccer, at the AYSO (American Youth Soccer Organization) level and I coached at the AYSO level before they went to club level," Mansueto said. "The deeper I got into, the more I thought what a phenomenal sport this is."