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Chicago has a proud soccer history.
We’ve had teams win North American Soccer League and Major League Soccer titles. World-famous clubs and players have made stops here, and just take a look at how busy the soccer fields are by Lake Shore Drive.
The city itself could add to its soccer legacy July 28 when it hosts the Gold Cup final, likely a match between the United States and Mexico.
In honor of that, here are five of the greatest soccer moments in Chicago history.
1. Sting win 1981 Soccer Bowl
Led by coach Willy Roy, the Chicago Sting were building a winner heading into the 1981 North American Soccer League season. They had won a division title in 1980 and had momentum, momentum they used to go 23-9 in 1981 and steamroll into the playoffs.
They beat Seattle, Montreal, and San Diego before getting to Soccer Bowl ’81 against the New York Cosmos. Playing in Toronto, the Sting beat Giorgio Chinaglia and the Cosmos in a shootout to win the championship, Chicago’s first in any sport since the 1963 Bears.
2. 1994 World Cup
Chicago played a huge role in the 1994 World Cup.
On June 17, Soldier Field hosted the opening ceremony. Oprah Winfrey emceed the event, and it gave the United States’ World Cup a roaring start.
Soldier Field also hosted five games of the tournament, including three of Germany’s matches. The games were significant because West Germany had won the 1990 title, and the games were the first for a re-unified country.
3. Fire win 1998 MLS Cup
When the MLS was first founded for the 1996 season, Chicago was somehow absent. After two years without a team, Chicago got the Fire for the 1998 season.
And they made up for lost time quickly.
Despite being a first-year team, the Fire finished second in the Western Conference. Led by coach Bob Bradley and stars such as Peter Nowak, Jerzy Podbrozny and Zach Thornton, the Fire beat two-time champion D.C. United 2-0 to win the 1998 MLS Cup.
The title got Chicago’s newest team off on the right foot, and also stands as perhaps the city’s most improbable champion.
4. The United States wins a trophy
The CONCACAF Gold Cup has largely been the domain of two teams: Mexico and the United States. And, as expected, they met at Soldier Field on June 24, 2007 in the Gold Cup final.
Both teams had to navigate tricky semifinals to get to Chicago: Mexico beat Guadeloupe 1-0 and the U.S. got past Canada 2-1. The final, in front of a capacity crowd with split allegiances, was another classic. Mexico jumped out to a 1-0 lead but the United States answered with a Landon Donovan penalty and Benny Feilhaber goal to win the tournament.
Not only did the win give the U.S. a trophy and bragging rights over its rival, but also a spot in the 2009 Confederations Cup, a tournament that saw the United States beat Spain before falling to Brazil in the final.
5. Manchester United redeems itself
In 2004, Manchester United brought a weakened side to Chicago to face Bayern Munich. That game ended 0-0 before Bayern won on penalties, leaving fans unsatisfied with a boring game.
Man U’s return to Chicago to face the Fire on July 23, 2011 was the complete opposite.
The Fire took a 1-0 lead before goals by stars Wayne Rooney, Rafael, and Nani gave United a 3-1 win. The fans were entertained and got their money’s worth, all while seeing their local team put up a valiant fight against one of the world’s great clubs.
6. Messi And Friends