The Chicago Fire and Sporting Kansas City are geographically linked in the MLS landscape, but their rivalry runs much deeper than simply proximity. The Fire have generally dominated the head-to-head series -- going 21-10-9 in 40 regular season matches since 1996 and 15-2-3 in the 20 home matches -- but Sporting KC managed to pull off two huge wins during the 2000 MLS Cup and the 2004 U.S. Open Cup final.
From there, the Kansas City fans have tried hard to turn the relationship into an intense rivalry, as noted by James Coston of Hot Time in Old Town:
Sporting has done their best to make the Fire care about them. They had them open their new stadium. They partnered with a local sandwich chain to give out free sandwiches after every Fire loss. Their CEO Robb Heineman offered to make a donation to charity for every MLS goal scored against the Fire in 2011. They've used a Fire scarf to clean up fake urine. They've referred to regular season, reserve and youth matches against "rivals" Chicago Fire as a way to build more interest.
"We went into last year with the idea of trying to increase that level of rivalry among the two clubs," says Tretiak, the VP of Marketing. "The more we talked internally about it and looked at our history, the more we felt that Chicago was a natural for geographical reasons and it just felt like it made a lot of sense.
Whether Sporting Kansas City can build a legitimate rivalry on the pitch -- meaning beyond the marketing department -- is yet to be seen. They will get another chance on Saturday to start that trend, but don't expect the Fire to do them any favors.
Game time/date: Saturday, May 12, 7:30 p.m. CT
Location: TOYOTA PARK, Bridgeview, IL
TV: CSN-Chicago, MLS Live
Radio: 97.5 FM
For more on this game, stick with SB Nation Chicago. For more on the Fire visit Hot Time in Old Town and for more on Sporting Kansas City, be sure to check out The Daily Wiz. For more news and notes around MLS, check out SB Nation's soccer news hub.