Back to play-by-play, WGN to air Chicago Fire soccer broadcasts

Joe Mansueto (Photo: Chicago Fire)

WGN-Channel 9 is getting back into the play-by-play sports business after all.

The Nexstar Media Group station today announced a multiyear agreement to become the TV home for all locally broadcast Chicago Fire soccer games, starting this season.

Kicking off March 7 with Chicago Fire at New England Revolution, WGN will air 24 regular-season home and away matches (with another 10 games airing nationally on ABC, ESPN, FS1, Univision and UniMás). Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Chicago Fire

“In this transformational year for our club, we want to provide our fans with as many ways as possible to experience the Fire, both live at Soldier Field and on the broadcast,” Joe Mansueto, owner and chairman of the Fire, said in a statement. “We know WGN-TV’s powerful place on the city’s sports scene and we’re excited to be their new flagship sports property.”

Mansueto, the Chicago billionaire who founded the financial services company Morningstar Inc., recently acquired full ownership of the Fire and promptly announced its return to Soldier Field, where the team played from 1997 to 2006. He also unveiled a new logo and uniform colors as part of a rebranding.

The TV agreement marks a return of live sports broadcasts to WGN after ending its long run last year as home of the Cubs, White Sox, Bulls and Blackhawks.

“WGN-TV has a rich history of broadcasting live sports and we look forward to continuing and building on that tradition with Chicago Fire FC,” Paul Rennie, vice president and general manager of WGN, said in a statement. “The Fire have found a new home at Soldier Field and now a new broadcast home at WGN-TV. We’re thrilled to bring the exciting action of Chicago Fire FC to our viewers and all of Chicago.”

No word yet on announcers for the broadcasts.

A primetime special, “Chicago Fire FC: Homecoming,” will air March 20 on WGN in advance of the Soldier Field home opener March 21 versus Atlanta United.

Starting in April, WGN will air a monthly series featuring interviews and profiles of players, coaches and fans.