The Chicago Fire will play in their earliest regular-season home opener when they kick off their 2012 Major League Soccer campaign.
The Fire and other MLS teams announced their 2012 home dates on Tuesday, and Chicago hosts a match at Toyota Park on March 24. Opponents and time slots will be announced at a later date.
It marks the second straight year that Chicago has hosted a March home opener. The Fire topped Sporting Kansas City, 3-2, on March 26 this past season at Toyota Park.
The Fire's earliest Chicago-based game to date included a 4-0 win over SJ Jabloteh on March 24, 2004, in a CONCACAF Champions Cup quarterfinal match in front of 6,143 at Soldier Field. Dipsy Selolwane had two goals and an assist for the Fire as they won the series on aggregate, 6-5.
Over their previous 14 seasons, the Fire have posted an 8-3-3 record in home openers.
Chicago is coming off its second straight playoff-less season. The Fire were 9-9-16 (43 points) in 2011 after posting a late-season surge but winding up several points outside of a postseason berth.
The 2012 MLS season features 19 teams and a 34-game regular-season schedule. The Montreal Impact joins the league, and head coach Jesse Marsch's side hosts its home opener on March 17. The Houston Dynamo opens its new 22,000-seat stadium on May 12.
2012 MLS home opener dates:
Saturday, March 10: Colorado Rapids, D.C. United, Los Angeles Galaxy, San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders FC, Vancouver Whitecaps FC
Sunday, March 11: Chivas USA, FC Dallas
Monday, March 12: Portland Timbers
Saturday, March 17: Sporting Kansas City, Montreal Impact, Real Salt Lake
Sunday, March 18: Philadelphia Union
Saturday, March 24: Chicago Fire, Columbus Crew, New England Revolution, Toronto FC
Sunday, March 25: New York Red Bulls
Saturday, May 12: Houston Dynamo (new stadium opener)