Chicago Fire, MLS seeing popularity spike

Chicago Fire, MLS seeing popularity spike
July 10, 2014, 11:00 pm
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CSN Staff

If this year's World Cup has taught us anything, it's that soccer is pretty darn popular in America these days.

And though the best leagues in the world might play their games on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, the U.S.'s league is gaining in popularity, as well.

The MLS and the Chicago Fire are seeing spikes in their popularity thanks not only to the World Cup but also to the overall adoption as soccer as a mainstream sport in the U.S.

"The league has grown leaps and bounds, whether it's new teams that are coming in, the players that are coming into the league," Fire chief operating officer Atul Khosla said in an interview with CSN. "And that has helped grow the popularity of the league and the sport in general.

"We're seeing the biggest growth with the young fans. It's 25, 35-year-olds that are growing up with the sport or have grown up with the sport for the first time. And that is a generation shift from where things were seven, eight years ago."

[PHOTOS: Thousands of US fans show up at Soldier Field]

The MLS recently inked a national TV deal that will last eight years and net the league about $100 million.

And it's not just on a national level. Soccer is big in Chicago, as evidenced by the massive crowds that showed up in Grant Park and Soldier Field for U.S. soccer watch parties during the World Cup. The Fire are planning to increase their presence in the city, as well, with the opening of the Chicago Fire Soccer Center, a 140,000 square-foot space at the corner of Talman and Addison on the North Side.

"You can play there year round. In addition, there's a 20,000 square-foot building that's going to go up, and that has everything from a training facility to a multi-purpose room, where we can do viewing parties," Khosla said. "We've got an outdoor patio, a restaurant, a pub. So you can not just play the game, you can relax with your friends."