CHICAGO, Ill — On the heels of a season that saw the Men in Red snag an MLS Cup playoff berth, the Chicago Fire have parted ways with local NBC Sports Chicago in favor of ESPN for their television rights deal, and signed deals with a pair of players on the eve of their 2018 season opener on Saturday evening against Sporting K.C..
The Chicago Fire announced on Friday afternoon that the club and ESPN have agreed on a three-year deal that will give ESPN the exclusive rights to broadcast 27 Chicago Fire matches in 2018, planting the Men in Red on ESPN’s new streaming platform, ESPN+. Fire fans – both in Chicago and around the country – will be able to watch all 27 ESPN+ matches anywhere in the U.S.. The Fire’s other seven regular season games will be televised nationally on ESPN, FOX Sports and Univision.
Here’s what Chicago Fire President and General Manager, Nelson Rodriguez had to say about the new broadcast deal this afternoon, “The partnership between ESPN, the worldwide leader in sports, and our storied club is a powerful combination,” said Rodríguez. “Our fans will receive top-quality streaming and production, available anytime, anywhere and across any devices.”
While ESPN+ isn’t set to launch until later this spring, Fire fans can watch up to eight Fire and out-of-market games per week for free on MLS Live, which can be found at LIVE.MLSSoccer.com. After ESPN+ launches this spring, the new subscription services will cost $4.99 per month, and will allow fans access to all ESPN+ plus programming including 27 Chicago Fire matches.
Also announced on Friday afternoon was the additions of defender Kevin Ellis, and goaltender Patrick McClain. Ellis has spent his entire MLS career with the Fire’s opening day opponent, Sporting K.C., debuting in June of 2013 after signing prior to the 2011 season. Ellis has 68 total regular season matches on his resume, and has logged five goals and five assists during that span.
“Kevin impressed us with how easily he fit with how we want to play and the group overall. He is ready to compete for playing time,” stated Nelson Rodríguez, president and general manager of the Chicago Fire. “Patrick is well known to us and his familiarity with our game model eases his return.”
Ellis is signed through the 2018 season with a club option for the 2019 campaign.
McClain spent the 2016 season with the Fire, playing in one match, the season finale against Toronto in October of 2016. McClain has just three career match appearances during his MLS career, and spent the 2017 season with Minnesota United FC. McClain is guaranteed through the 2018 season, and the club has options for 2019 and 2020.
The Fire will kick off the 2018 campaign at 5:00 pm (CT) against Sporting K.C., at Toyota Park in south-suburban Bridgeview on Saturday evening.