Frequently Asked Questions
Who are the Chicago Fire?
The Chicago Fire Soccer Club is an American professional soccer club that participates in Major League Soccer. Based in the Chicago suburb of Bridgeview, Illinois, the team was founded October 8, 1997, on the 126th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. In 1998, their inaugural league season, the Fire won the MLS Cup as well as the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup (the "double"). They have also won the 2000, 2003, and 2006 Open Cups. A key feature of the Fire is its complete developmental system consisting of the Chicago Fire Premier (a Premier Development League team and a Super-20 League team), the Chicago Fire Development Academy, Chicago Fire Juniors youth teams and a community based Camps and Training department. The club also administers a charitable community organization, the Chicago Fire Foundation. The official club colors are red and white. Over its history, the Fire has also employed navy blue, sky blue, and black as alternate or accent colors.
What are the Fire Juniors?
The Fire Juniors are the youth club affiliate of the Chicago Fire Soccer Club, with local branches in North Chicago, South Chicago & North West Indiana; regional branches in Mississippi and national branches in Louisiana and Florida. First established in 2004, the original Fire Juniors were formed by the combination of two existing youth clubs in Wheaton, to serve as the initial Chicago youth soccer flagship as a program of the Wheaton Park District. They then absorbed the Naperville Lightning, a successful, existing club in Naperville. The Fire Juniors Technical Director is Academy Director Larry Sunderland and Affiliate Manager is Brian Roberts.
The Fire Juniors is the first of its kind program in Major League Soccer (MLS) and creates a true player development "pyramid" from the beginning recreational player to the professional level. This "pyramid" creates a progressive developmental structure providing players the opportunity to move from introductory play, competitive play and elite youth play into professional academy formats (Fire Academy U16, U18) and professional development programs (Super 20, PDL) - finally, onto the Fire MLS team. The Fire has two current players who have come through this ‘Home Grown’ player pathway: Victor Pineda (Bolingbrook, IL) and Kellen Gulley (Jackson, MS).
Why choose the Fire Juniors?
The Fire Juniors is a first class, professionally run organization that produces teams and develops players for consistent high-level competition. The Fire Juniors maintains the infrastructure for player and team development that produces the highest quality player and team results. As part of the Chicago Fire Player Development Program, Fire Juniors players have access to unparalleled opportunities for soccer development -- opportunities that no other club can provide. Youth to professional, top quality leadership and coaching, always ahead of the curve and leading the way in the evolution of youth soccer.
The Fire Juniors believe in the Pyramid of Player Development. From the base of the pyramid, where one finds the greatest number of participants from the recreational and beginning player, to the top of the pyramid, where we find our first division professional player - our program has the capacity to meet every player's goals -- male or female. Our professional coaching staff is equipped to meet every player's developmental needs - from bottom to top. We follow a curriculum that is both age and ability-based and allows the flexibility to accommodate those who are excelling as well as those who need additional help. Because of our soccer club's unique distinction as the first program to follow a professional soccer club model - one club, from youth recreational teams to our elite teams and Academy teams - finally to the ultimate, Major League Soccer's Chicago Fire.
The MISSION STATEMENT of the Fire Juniors is-
“To Lead the Evolution of Youth Soccer In the United States”.
The VISION of the Fire Juniors is
“To foster a culture of excellence both on and off the field of play. To create an environment that develops players from grassroots through to college, MLS and National Teams”.
What does a Fire Junior Training Program look like?
The Fire Juniors have three distinct programs:
The Fire Juniors Premier Program is for the serious soccer player who aspires to play at the highest level of elite travel soccer. Competing at the state, regional and national levels require a commitment to training, games, tournaments and travel. The program is year round with extensive training indoor and outdoor. Players are placed on teams based on ability and competition for roster and pool spots is high. The Premier level teams receive exposure at the top tournaments around the country and the program is specifically designed for those players looking to play soccer in high school, college and beyond. A ‘Premier’ boys or girls team will practice either twice or three times per week.
The Fire Juniors Select Program is for the soccer player who wishes to participate in a high quality, developmental, travel soccer program that emphasizes a more community-based approach. Time commitment is less than the premier program and travel consists of local leagues and mainly in-state tournaments. The program does include indoor training during the winter months. Players are placed on teams through the tryout process with criteria for selection being based on ability, commitment and logistics. A Fire Juniors club may have a number of select teams per age group depending on the size of the club. A ‘Select’ boys or girls team will practice twice per week.
The Fire Juniors Project 2020 is the latest innovation from the Chicago Fire. Putting the development of its youngest players first, the CFJ will select U8 Boys and U8 Girls to be a part of Project 2020 which is named after the year these young players could potentially graduate into the Chicago Fire Academy. CFJ Technical Director Larry Sunderland, the founder and developer of the program said, "Placing a club's top coaching resources with the youngest players is something that just isn’t done in the United States. Economics, coaching agenda and a "win at all cost" mentality – even at these ages – are just some of the reasons our players are not getting the soccer foundation they need. This is certainly a step in the right direction and an investment in player development that the Chicago Fire Juniors are taking very seriously". Each year a new project group will be selected at tryouts. During the 2011-12 season the selection of players will be called Project 2020 and the 2012-13 group will called project 2021.
What changes are planned now that the club have announced the affiliation?
The club are completing an integrated ‘Transition Plan’ which will includes: marketing the clubs tryouts which will take place in the first week of June; a revamp of the clubs existing website so it shares the Chicago Fire Juniors vision; and a coach education strategy to raise standards with coaching staff at the club.