- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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Illinois and Washington will play next season at Soldier Field.
The Sept. 14, 2013, game was originally scheduled to be played in Champaign. This would be the Illini's first game at Soldier Field since it faced Washington State there in 1994.
Illinois has expressed a desire to potentially play an annual game in Chicago. Since the 2013 Northwestern game is in Champaign, this fits right along with that plan.
"This is a great opportunity for our football team to play in one of the most historic football venues in the nation," athletic director Mike Thomas said in a release. "Soldier Field is in an incredible location that will allow our fans in the Chicagoland area and from around the state an opportunity to watch the Fighting Illini take on an outstanding Pac-12 opponent in Washington."
Illinois and Northwestern met in Wrigley Field two seasons ago, but the dimensions of the baseball park caused all kinds of headaches. This would provide much more of a pure football setting, though Illinois may lose a little of its home-field advantage in the process.
It's also another chance for the Illini to plant a flag in the ongoing battle for Chicago supremacy between them and Northwestern, which has really heated up as of late.
Soldier Field presents a natural setting for Big Ten teams, and we'd love to see more nonconference games played there. Wisconsin faced Northern Illinois there last season, while Iowa does the same against NIU in this year's opener. But this looks like the best matchup involving a Big Ten team since Northwestern took on Oklahoma at Soldier Field in 1997.
Illinois also announced that it has added Miami (Ohio) to the 2013 nonconference schedule. The Illini will open 2014 at home against Youngstown State and have a return game at Washington on Sept. 13, 2014. The two remaining non-conference games for 2014 are still TBA.
Illinois has two non-conference games set for 2015: home games against Western Illinois on Sept. 5 and Kent State on Sept. 12. In 2016, the Illini will travel to Western Michigan on Sept. 10, in a return game for the 2012 home game against the Broncos.