Forward Madison FC announced a new affiliation agreement with Major League Soccer side Chicago Fire FC on Thursday.
“We feel this partnership will have a significant impact on our fight to deliver a championship to Madison this season,” Forward Madison Chief Operating Officer Conor Caloia said in a release. “Between the ownership, management team and coaching staff of the Chicago Fire, there is a great energy in that organization right now that aligns well with where we are going.”
The two clubs made the affiliation official with a jersey exchange and a Wisconsin spin on the classic Chicago handshake—a shot of Malört paired with a Madison beer—at a meet and greet Thursday night. Caloia said that members of the Forward staff spent a few days with the Fire during preseason and were impressed with what they saw.
“[The Fire] have one of the best development academies in the country,” Forward head coach and technical director Daryl Shore said at the event. “Players turning U13 on up, the best players in Illinois and a lot of players from Wisconsin, including a player from Madison, are in the Fire development academy.”
The terms of the partnership allow Forward Madison to receive players on loan from the Fire. A loan to fill out the club’s depth in front of net could be in store for the near future.
“I know there’s been a lot of questions about our goalkeeping situation,” Caloia said. “We have one rostered goalkeeper right now. The Fire have five goalkeepers. So we told you all along that we have a plan, to trust us, and that will be the first step in, we think, our partnership working together, in addition to some other positive additions to the great guys that we’ve already signed.”
Forward Madison can also utilize select Fire Academy players for games and training sessions, with Academy players retaining their eligibility for NCAA play.
As part of the affiliation, the Fire will have a member of their first-team technical staff present at each Forward Madison home game to monitor player development. The two clubs will also be able to share technical and performance resources as well.
The announcement officially ends any possibility of Madison renewing their affiliation with Minnesota United this season. While the Loons are no longer directly affiliated with Forward Madison, they will still be able to loan players to the club.
Caloia teased an exhibition match in Madison against the Fire set for July, although no specific date is set. The Flamingos continue preseason play on March 14 in an exhibition against UW-Parkside, Forward’s first game of the year in Madison.