Named after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the Chicago Fire is a Major League Soccer team established on October 8, 1997, which was the 126th anniversary of the historical fire.
The Fire joined MLS during the league's first round of expansion in 1997, making their home at Chicago's Soldier Field and playing for the first time in the 1998 season. Although the first two seasons of MLS play had been only moderate successes at best at the box office, Colorado Rapids owner Philip Anschutz evidently felt enough confidence in the league's future success to take on ownership of an expansion franchise in Chicago (Anschutz would later expand his ownership to six of the league's 12 teams and a 30% ownership stake in the league itself).
Initially, the Fire tried to market themselves to Polish Americans, citing the fact that Chicago has more people of Polish heritage than any city on Earth except Warsaw as a reason to sign three Polish footballers (including Polish national team captain Peter Nowak), as well as Polish-American Chicago native Frank Klopas, to play in the team's inaugural season. They also tried to appeal to Chicago's Hispanic population by trading for Mexican superstar goalkeeper Jorge Campos, although he would remain with the team only one season. Other notable footballers who have played for the Fire over the years include Eric Wynalda, Josh Wolff, DeMarcus Beasley, and Bulgarian legend Hristo Stoitchkov.
In its short history, the Fire has been one of the better teams in MLS. The team got off to a quick start in 1998, surprising everyone by winning both the MLS Cup and the US Open Cup in only their first season. The team returned to the playoffs again in 1999, but settled for third place. The Fire made it all the way back to the MLS cup final in 2000, but was shut out 1-0 by the Kansas City Wizards despite a 22-6 shots taken advantage, although the team later salvaged some pride by winning the US Open Cup for a second time. The Fire made early exits in the playoffs the next three seasons, but did capture a third US Open Cup in 2003.