Throwback Thursday: Ahead of the Red Stars’ title game, a look at Chicago pro soccer champions

WGN News Now

CHICAGO – It’s a chance for the city to add a second professional championship in 2021, doing so for the first time in women’s soccer.

The Chicago Red Stars face the Washington Spirit in Louisville on Saturday as they go for their first National Women’s Soccer League championship. If they win, they’d join the Sky in being pro sports champions in the city and would give Chicago its first multiple sports championship since 1998.

At the same time, the Red Stars’ playing for a title has brought back some memories of other pro soccer teams that have brought home some hardware. There have been a few, but in the outdoor form of the sport, it’s been a little while.

The Chicago Fire didn’t waste any time in finding success when they began play in Major League Soccer in 1998. In what some could argue is the greatest inaugural season in North American professional sports history, the club finished second in the Western Conference then won playoff games over Colorado and the LA Galaxy to advance to the MLS Cup.

On October 25, 1998, the Fire beat DC United 2-0 in front of over 50,000 fans at the Rose Bowl to win their first and so far only championship. They would then go on to win the US Open Cup a few days later.

In the early 1980s, the Chicago Sting brought home a pair of championships in the North American Soccer League, with the first coming in a memorable 1981 campaign.

Winning the Central Division, Willie Roy’s second-seeded team would knock off Montreal and San Diego in three-game series to reach Soccer Bowl ’81 against the league’s most powerful club: The New York Cosmos.

On September 26, 1981, the teams were scoreless through 90 minutes and extra time, forcing a shootout. Rudy Glenn would get the game-winning score in that session and Dieter Ferner made the stop on Bob Iarusci to give the Sting a championship.

At that point, it was the city’s first pro title since the Bears won the 1963 NFL Championship in the pre-Super Bowl era.

Three years later the Sting won another NASL championship, doing so again in Toronto as they swept the Blizzard in the best-of-three series, with the last being played in that city. It was the last game for the league as it would fold before the next season.

In the indoor game, the Sting were competitive but could never win a title, but the Chicago Power did in the 1990-1991 season in NPSL. The Chicago Mustangs of the Major Arena Soccer League have also won two titles in 2013-2014 and 2017-2018.

Larry Hawley has more on these previous champions in “Throwback Thursday” on WGN News Now, which you can watch in the video above.

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