Although it’s recent, Chicago’s professional soccer clubs have built up a strong track record for success. The two clubs boast some top-tier talent, such as keeper Alyssa Naeher and forward Robert Beric.
The Chicago Fire, a Major League Soccer (MLS) fixture, and the Chicago Red Stars, who are in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), are headliners in Illinois’ most populous city.
For that reason, Illinois sportsbooks take action on matches involving both clubs. During non-pandemic times, you can find home matches for both clubs filling the calendar during the spring and summer months.
Because these matches are less popular for the common bettor than other contests, there can be some great soccer betting opportunities to win if you’re willing to put in the effort and time to handicap them. It’s a beautiful part of “the beautiful game.”
Chicago Fire will play in the Challenge Cup on April 9. Regular season play will begin May 15. When MLS season kicks off, we will list the odds here.
Most IL sportsbooks have yet to post futures for the 2021 MLS season because the full schedule isn’t out yet. When MLS shares information about that fixture, that will likely change. The sports betting odds will also fluctuate based on what moves the club makes during the offseason.
The Red Stars will compete April 9 in the second annual Challenge Cup tournament. The league has yet to release a full NWSL schedule for that event or the rest of the 2021 season, however. When that’s out, IL books will have lines on the match.
In the last non-pandemic season, the Red Stars played in the NWSL Championship match but fell to the North Carolina Courage. The Red Stars also played for the NWSL Challenge Cup title this year, but again lost that match. With much of the talent returning and some developing youth, expect them to contend for a title again in 2021.
You can wager on any Fire or Red Stars match throughout their respective seasons but by no means are you limited to just those options. IL online sportsbooks also offer futures and proposition markets relevant to both clubs. You can find prop bets specific to individual matches. Some common examples include:
In futures markets, you can wager on the results of a season as a whole. As soon as the NWSL gets a 2021 schedule up, IL sportsbooks should have a market on which club will win the championship live, for example. Other popular futures bets include:
Some online sportsbooks in Illinois may post futures markets for individual players on both/either club(s) as well. These can include statistical achievements and individual awards, like:
Props and futures can be a fun way to diversify your bets besides wagering on the results of individual matches all the time. As previously mentioned, they can represent a great value as well if you know your stuff, like who are the best players.
Looking back at the last four non-pandemic seasons for both clubs reveals some names consistently at the top of important statistical categories for both clubs. Unfortunately, some of these players are no longer repping Chi-town.
|2019||Nicolás Gaitán (12)||C.J. Sapong (13)||Kenneth Kronholm (58)||Aleksander Katai (31)|
|2018||Bastian Schweinsteiger (6)||Nemanja Nikolic (15)||Richard Sanchez (47)||Aleksander Katai (41)|
|2017||David Accam, Michael de Leeuw (8)||Nemanja Nikolic (24)||Matt Lampson (58)||Nemanja Nikolic (59)|
|2016||Arturo Alvarez (9)||David Accam (9)||Sean Johnson (68)||David Accam (28)|
|2019||Yuki Nagasato (8)||Sam Kerr (18)||Alyssa Naeher (43)||Sam Kerr (53)|
|2018||Yuki Nagasato (7)||Sam Kerr (16)||Alyssa Naeher (64)||Sam Kerr (47)|
|2017||Christen Press, Sofia Huerta (4)||Christen Press (11)||Alyssa Naeher (64)||Christen Press (49)|
|2016||Vanessa DiBernardo (6)||Christen Press (8)||Alyssa Naeher (32)||Christen Press (32)|
Kerr is no longer playing in the NWSL, while Huerta, Press and Nagasato are now playing for other NWSL clubs. Naeher is still in goal for the Red Stars, however. Only Sapong is still taking the pitch in a Fire kit out of that crowd.
While Kealia Ohai Watt and Sapong represent some of the best chances for Fire/Red Stars players to take home hardware, don’t sleep on other players on the pitch for Chicago’s clubs. These are two of the best organizations at developing and identifying talent in North America.
Over the past few years, a regular-season schedule in the NWSL has consisted of 24 matches. Each club played the other eight three times. That format will likely change in 2021, however, as expansion Louisville Racing FC is set to make its debut.
What the NWSL has released about the 2021 season is that it will begin with another Challenge Cup tournament. The league has yet to share whether clubs will host matches in their stadiums in that tourney, if it will take place at one site as the 2020 edition did, or a combination of those two things. The regular season will then kick off in mid-May with each team playing 24 matches.
Six clubs will qualify for a postseason tournament based on the final regular-season point standings. It’s uncertain right now when that will take place, as the league will break for the 2021 Summer Olympics. Many NWSL players also play on national team rosters around the world.
The intended format for the 2020 season was that clubs would play 34 matches. MLS has two conferences; Eastern and Western. The conferences are currently unbalanced, however, with 14 in the East and 12 in the West.
The plan was for each team to play the others in its own conference twice, away and home, then fill out their schedules with inter-conference matches. However, the COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench in those plans. No new clubs are set to join MLS for the 2021 season, so that should be the plan for 2021. The MLS season usually starts in late February/early March and continues through late October.
Both leagues award a trophy to the team with the most regular-season points. In the NWSL, that’s called the NWSL Shield. In MLS, that’s the Supporters’ Shield. Both leagues also have a postseason tournament which teams qualify for based on those point standings. MLS expanded that tournament to include 10 teams in each conference for 2020.
NWSL fans will have to wait to see what that will look like in 2021 given the expansion. The next seasons might also give fans an opportunity to see some of both clubs’ best young talent.
MLS does have what’s called a SuperDraft each year, although it pulls much of its talent from around the world and not from the collegiate ranks in the United States. This is part of the reason why MLS rosters can look very different from one season to the next.
Chicago dealt away most of its 2020 SuperDraft picks, acquiring more polished talent in the process. As a result, the Fire were only on the clock twice on draft day, which was Jan. 11:
|Round 1, No. 26 overall||Jonathan Jimenez||Pacific||Defender|
|Round 4, No. 104 overall||PASS||-||-|
The NWSL similarly has a college draft each year although its clubs can also bring in new talent through free-agent contracts with international players. It has to fit those players on a limited roster, however, as there are no affiliated minor leagues for NWSL clubs. The 2020 draft took place on Jan. 16 and the Red Stars ended up making five selections after a flurry of trades involving multiple clubs. Those five selections were:
|Round 2, No. 15 overall||Julia Bingham||Southern Cal||Defender|
|Round 2, No. 16 overall||Camryn Biegalski||UW-Madison||Defender|
|Round 3, No. 19 overall||Zoe Morse||Virginia||Defender|
|Round 3, No. 24 overall||Ella Stevens||Duke||Midfielder|
|Round 4, No. 35 overall||Aerial Chavarin||Yale||Midfielder|
The pandemic altered the league’s course in many ways. That’s part of the reason Bigalski and Chavarin are no longer on the Red Stars’ first-team roster. In a similar fashion, Jimenez is no longer with the Fire.
It may be too early to tell how much Biegalski, Morse, and Stevens will contribute to the Red Stars in the long haul. However, they couldn’t ask for better training.
Rory Dames is one of the most respected managers in the world and has helped the Red Stars achieve great success in the franchise’s history. Raphaël Wicky is less tenured in Chicago but has a strong pedigree as well.
Wicky is the tenth manager in Fire history, while Dames is the only manager the Red Stars have had since the franchise joined the NWSL in 2011. In many cases for both clubs, a change in the manager has come after a change in ownership.
Emma Hayes served as the first Red Stars manager from 2007-09 when the Red Stars were part of the Women’s Professional Soccer League. Omid Namazi served in that role for the final two WPS seasons, as the league folded after the 2010 campaign to give way to the NWSL. The history of Fire managers is longer.
No matter who is on the sidelines for these clubs’ matches, supporters have beautiful venues to enjoy them from. The two stadiums that house these clubs are in different parts of the city.
The Red Stars use a much newer arena, SeatGeek Stadium, in the southwest suburbs at 7000 S. Harlem Ave., in Bridgeview.
The Fire call one of the most venerated venues in Chicago, Soldier Field, home. It is at 1410 Museum Campus Drive, in Chicago.
MLS has national broadcast deals with ESPN, Fox Sports and Univision. You can catch some Fire matches on those channels each season relevant to that particular season’s MLS schedule. For other Fire matches, WGN is the local broadcast partner and you can find the relevant channel for your service here.
Depending on your cable, live streaming or satellite provider, you may be able to stream these matches live as well if you’re away from home. Log in with your provider credentials to the appropriate streaming platforms to see what your options are.
The NWSL’s national broadcast partner is CBS. For Red Stars matches not carried on the broadcast channel, CBS All-Access is the next place to try. Red Stars supporters can buy standalone subscriptions to CBS All-Access or get access to the content using their cable/satellite credentials. Failing that, the NWSL has a Twitch channel that carries all its other matches for free.
The Fire were founded on Oct. 8, 1997, as an MLS expansion franchise. The club found success quickly, winning both the MLS Cup and the Open Cup in 1998. It would return to Open Cup supremacy in 2000, but that set the stage for years of uncertainty.
The Fire did rebound to win the Open Cup and the Supporters Shield in 2003 but could not make good on its bid to win a second MLS Cup. Since then, the only hardware has been a 2006 Open Cup victory in 2006.
In mid-2018, current majority owner Joe Mansueto purchased his interest in the club. That proceeded a return to Soldier Field and great turnover in both the front office and the roster.
The Red Stars were one of the original seven clubs in Women’s Professional Soccer, founded with strong connections to the Fire in 2007. The WPS folded after the 2010 season and Arnim Whistler bought the franchise as its sole owner.
Whistler hired Rory Dames as the franchise’s manager. The Women’s Professional Soccer League emerged to take the WPS’ place and Dames took the Red Stars to the championship match in 2012.
The WPSL lasted just two seasons, giving way to the NWSL, which the club joined for 2013. Since then, the Red Stars have continued to play for championships, including the 2019 NWSL Championship and the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup.
Betting on soccer can be unique in some ways when compared to basketball betting and football betting. If you’re going to bet on soccer, it’s good to know how to read the markets and where you can find the information you need to handicap the matches well. For starters, sportsbooks offer some wagers on soccer matches that aren’t as common in other sports:
There are a few betting tips that are common across all sports, including soccer. This includes doing your homework before you bet. While you should just bet for fun rather than to pay your bills or alleviate stress, winning is more fun than losing. Sportsbooks don’t throw up markets willy-nilly. They have handicapped these matches and their aim is to keep your money.
Thus, before you bet a Fire or Red Stars match, spend some energy and time scouting it out. The best place to get information is the leagues’ individual websites. They have a lot of statistical information that is free to access. The links are:
When looking at a match, consider:
A common question for bettors is whether they should pay for expert picks. There’s no hard and fast rule, but generally speaking, it’s not worth the expense. The big reason is paying for picks adds to your cost of betting, which means you have to win more often just to break even, much less make a profit on your betting. Additionally, real sharp bettors usually don’t sell their insights into sporting events because they don’t want the market to move away from them.
One, in 1998. They have won three US Open Cups (1998, 2000, and 2006). In 2003, the Fire won a Supporters Shield as the MLS club with the most regular-season points that year.
Zero, although they played in the last game for that title in 2019. The club has yet to win an NWSL Shield as well. The Red Stars did play for the 2020 Challenge Cup title as well. In the old WPSL, which is the league that preceded the NWSL, they played for the title in 2012.
Joe Mansueto, the CEO of Morningstar Inc., controls a 49% interest in the club. Many other people have various stakes in the franchise. The club has had several previous owners since it started play in 1997.
For the Red Stars, Arnim Whistler is the sole owner. He purchased the club in 2010 from a group that had connections with the Fire.
Yes, it’s completely legal to wager on these matches, as long as you’re:
If you don’t live in a state with legal sports betting, you can register for an account with an IL online sportsbook, and deposit funds into your account from anywhere. You just have to be somewhere in IL when you actually place your bets.
Yes, many of them represent their countries in CONCACAF and/or FIFA events along with the Summer Olympics. Additionally, many players play for other clubs in other parts of the world during the MLS/NWSL off-seasons. Many IL sportsbooks offer action on these events and leagues as well.