Morningstar founder Joe Mansueto runs and plays tennis, but he never played soccer when he was growing up in Munster, Indiana.
This may come as a surprise given that he’s the new, full owner of the Major League Soccer team the Chicago Fire.
Mansueto says he got into the sport watching his kids play (and for a short time, coaching them). He’s since gotten “hooked.”
“Soccer is one of the few sports where I’ll watch two teams – neither of which are my two hometown teams play,” he said during an interview Thursday with WTTW News. “I don’t know any other sport I’ll do that. Maybe football. But with soccer I just enjoy watching it so much.”
Buying the Chicago Fire isn’t merely a passion project. Mansueto, who’s estimated by Forbes to be worth at least $3 billion, also sees the Chicago Fire as an investment opportunity.
“The values of sports teams tend to rise over time and one of the reasons is that live sports content is irreplaceable,” he said. “There’s only one source if you want to watch the Chicago Bears. For a lot of things – on the internet, you know, entertainment – there’s a lot of substitutes. Live sports there is no substitute. Hence sports rights have been big through the roof. And the value, I think, will continue to grow because all the cable cutters still need live sports. And so I think there’s still a very bright future from an investment perspective regarding soccer.”
Mansueto also says soccer is the right sport for the time: Games are “90 minutes of non-stop action.” MLS teams play 34 matches in a season. Young athletes aren’t steering clear of soccer fields like they are of American football.
“A lot of people who played soccer, like my kids, have grown up and know they want to watch soccer If you look at where the rest of the world is in terms of soccer viewership engagement, it’s much higher than the U.S., I think over time the U.S. will get there,” he said.
The first step to growing a fan base is nearly finalized: moving home games back to Soldier Field from Bridgeview as part of a $60.5 million deal to rearrange the terms of a 30-year Bridgeview lease. (The team will still train in Bridgeview.)
Mansueto says Bridgeview is too far away; he wants a central location like Soldier Field.
Other changes could be forthcoming, including a potential name change (though Mansueto personally likes the Chicago Fire for what it represents).
But he has no immediate plans to change Chicago Fire management or the team roster, nor does he envision building a new soccer-only stadium in the city.
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