The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

What Messi’s arrival could mean for Soldier Field, Chicago Fire

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The Chicago Fire’s Oct. 4 match against Inter Miami CF drew the largest crowd in club history with 62,124 attendees. This record-breaking attendance at Soldier Field can most likely be accredited to Inter Miami recruiting of World Cup champion Lionel Messi, who joined the club this summer at age 36, adding to a growing list of global stars joining Major League Soccer (MLS).

“I think Messi brought in the majority of the crowd based on the fact that the stadium was filled with people wearing Messi jerseys, including myself, even though I was rooting for the Chicago Fire,” said Brandon Olechowski, a DePaul senior and long-time MLS fan.

Soldier Field was a sea of Messi jerseys during the match, Oct. 4. Ironically, the superstar was nowhere to be found. He missed four consecutive contests prior due to a scar tissue alignment injury. Inter Miami released their lineup the day of the match, and Messi was not listed. The team later said Messi would not be traveling with the team either.

Messi’s contract is set to run through the 2025 MLS season, the MLS said. Since then, fans everywhere have been excited to see their teams play against the international superstar, and Windy City fans were no different.

Because so many tickets were sold for the Inter Miami game and Messi was a no-show, the Fire offered credit toward 2024 season memberships and future single games to ticket holders.

Many fans anticipated Messi would not play, since his injury had already spanned several weeks, but they still showed up. Although fans could hear discontented chanting about his absence throughout the stands, Chicago fans were happy with the Fire’s 4-1 victory. 

Precious McDonald, a long-time employee at Soldier Field, feels attendance is headed in the right direction on a broader scale for the Fire.

“I have seen the crowd at Soldier Field increase every game,” McDonald said. “Although many people came for Messi this time, the last game was still very packed, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the next game is sold out too.”

If the Chicago Bears football team does leave Soldier Field as indicated, it will be up to teams that play at the stadium consistently like the Fire to keep ticket sales high enough to maintain a profitable venue, but some are skeptical.

“I’d love it if the MLS had the power to save Soldier Field, but it is going to take a lot more than one game against a big name to save it,” DePaul sophomore Hayden Swader said.

For now, Messi provides a strong boost the MLS may need to drive up the attendance and promote sustainable fandom.“I’ve been going to Fire games as long as I can remember, and I haven’t seen a crowd like that since [Bastian] Schweinsteiger was brought to MLS [in 2017],” Swader said.It’s safe to say Messi’s influence definitely brings bigger crowds and more league recognition.”

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