The Chicago Fire officially announced Tuesday that they are returning Soldier Field in 2020 following months of speculation the team would be moving to the Chicago stadium.
"Chicagoans have a deep, deep love for our sport," said owner Joe Mansueto in a press conference announcing the news, which he called the "best worst kept secret official." "But to realize that potential we believe the club needs to be located centrally. Make it available to all of Chicago."
The team played its first game as a franchise at Soldier Field more than 20 years ago, but has been playing in Bridgeview since 2006.
"This sports fan is just bursting with pride," Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.
The club's previous longtime owner Andrew Hauptmen said when he announced he had sold his controlling interest in the team last month that it was the "next step of returning to Soldier Field."
The soccer club announced in July it had reached a deal with Bridgeview allowing the team to play home games and "conduct team operations" outside of SeatGeek Stadium. SeatGeek Stadium will remain a training facility and headquarters for the Chicago Fire Youth development programs, the club said.
In a letter to fans, President and General Manager Nelson Rodriguez and COO John Urban wrote that the team would "explore playing in downtown Chicago as early as next season."
Now, the team is expected to play its first game at the field on March 21, 2020 against reigning MLS Club Champions Atlanta United. The game will be broadcast nationally beginning at 2:30 p.m. CT, Mansueto said.
"Mark your calendars now," he said, calling on Chicago to "fill this entire stadium" for the match.
He noted that the club will keep ticket rates flat for the next season.
"As we move from Bridgeview to soldier Field we want to keep soccer affordable," Mansueto said.
Fans can start placing deposits for the game Tuesday, with a $20 deposit ensuring a place in line and your choice of seats.
"We want to invite the whole city of Chicago out to see the game next season," Mansueto said.
The news comes on the same day the team's star Bastian Schweinsteiger said he is retirning from the sport, ending an 18-year professional career.
Schweinsteiger announced his retirement over Twitter on Tuesday, writing: "Saying goodbye as an active player makes me feel a little nostalgic but I am looking forward to the exciting challenges that await me soon."
"He’s a great guy great teammate, terrific role model," Mansueto said. "He’s always put the team first and he put the Chicago Fire on the map...We will miss him."
Mansueto hinted that the team will try to keep Schweinsteiger involved "in some way."