Yesterday, the Bears released their 2021 schedule which, on multiple occasions, curiously has them playing at home when the Fire are slated to be at Soldier Field. This poses a pressing dilemma for both franchises and it will be interesting to see how they work things out in the coming weeks.
As it stands, this will occur on both Saturday, August 14, when the Bears welcome the Miami Dolphins for the team’s first preseason game (not pictured below), and Sunday, October 31 when the San Francisco 49ers travel to Chicago. On August 14 and October 31, the Fire are supposed to be hosting Columbus SC and the New England Revolution, respectively.
From a practical point of view, the NFL will always take precedent over the MLS simply because of the amount of revenue each league produces. In other words, in all likelihood, it will be the Fire who will have to accommodate the Bears despite the Fire’s season already being underway. With that said, for a variety of reasons, including many MLS teams playing in multi-purpose stadiums, the solutions aren’t as straightforward as you may think.
In regards to August 14, the obvious answer would be to move the Fire’s game back to Friday the 13th (spooky) or up to August 15, seeing as how the Fire and Columbus SC’s schedules could easily accommodate such an alteration. However, the Bears’ grounds crew would certainly need more than one day to have the field ready and the same would apply to the Fire if they were forced to play after the Bears.
Therefore, the most reasonable plan of action is to move the game up to Wednesday, August 11. This allows ample time to have the field in playing condition for the Bears’ preseason matchup and gives Columbus a seven-day gap before their next contest. The Fire would only have three days of rest after playing the New York Red Bulls on August 8, but they would have the luxury of not being forced to travel in between as both games would be at home.
As for October 31, from the Fire’s point of view, there was an easy fix to the scheduling conflict which simply doesn’t work because of the their opponents. For example, the Fire play an away game against NYFC on October 27, followed by the match against the Revolution on the 31st. In a perfect world, everything would be resolved if the Fire were able to simply switch those two games.
Unfortunately, NYFC travels to Inter Miami FC on October 30 and would never agree to play on back-to-back days. In addition, the Revolution already have a game scheduled on October 27 against the Colorado Rapids and it’s safe to assume they’d be unwilling to shuffle multiple games on their schedule, especially for a team in a completely separate league. This brings us back to the same solution as before, this time pushing the game to the following week on Wednesday, November 3.
This provides both the Fire and the Revolution four days of rest before their next match, and allows the Fire’s grounds crew enough time to make sure the playing conditions are safe. The Bears travel to Pittsburgh on November 8 and then enjoy their bye week, meaning they don’t return to Soldier Field until November 21, at which time they’d return to a pristine surface for their game against Baltimore.
How this predicament was ever allowed to occur is perplexing to say the least, especially considering how the Fire announced their schedule all the way back on March 24. Yet, here we are.
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