Offseason training will have a professional component for the FGCU men's soccer team again this year when the Eagles take on the Chicago Fire of the Major League Soccer (MLS) on Sunday, Feb. 2, at Ave Maria University.
The preseason friendly culminates the Fire's eight-day training camp in Southwest Florida at 11 a.m. at North Park, about 40 miles from FGCU's campus. The game has become a yearly tradition for the Fire and Eagles.
"We really appreciate the invitation extended by the Chicago Fire," Eagles coach Bob Butehorn said. "It will give our team a great experience, especially being as young as we are. It's a good opportunity for us to compete at a high level, and it's a great event for Southwest Florida as well."
The Fire beat FGCU 2-0 last January in three 30-minute periods. Three years ago, in the inaugural meeting, the match ended in a 2-2 draw. Chicago finished last year 14-13-7, but missed out on the playoffs due to a second tiebreaker to Montreal. After the season ended, the club's forward Mike Magee was the named the MLS Most Valuable Player.
Following their weeklong stay in SWF, the Fire head to the IMG Academy in Bradenton for the second leg of preseason. Chicago then closes out its preseason from Feb. 15-Mar. 2 in Tucson, Ariz.
FGCU assistant coach Alec Dufty was a goalkeeper for the Fire in the 2011 season after training with the team in preseason, including its visit to Ave Maria.
The Eagles are the first program in A-Sun history to win four straight regular-season championships courtesy of a 6-1-1 league record last fall. The Eagles have a 28-3-2 record in A-Sun games since the start of the 2010 season. All three of its conference losses came on the road.