Chicago Fire extend sporting director Georg Heitz’s contract after missing MLS playoffs for 6th straight season

The Chicago Fire on Tuesday announced contract extensions with sporting director Georg Heitz and technical director Sebastian Pelzer, both of whom will return for a fifth season with the club in 2024.

The Fire are coming off a 10-14-10 season in which they tied for 12th in the Eastern Conference and missed the Major League Soccer playoffs for the sixth year in a row and 12th time in 14 seasons.

“I’m pleased that Georg and Sebastian will continue to lead our sporting operations,” Fire owner and Chairman Joe Mansueto said in a statement. “Our fans deserve to support a team that is a consistent contender for trophies, and heading into the 2024 season, we are all committed to taking the necessary steps to bring more success to the Chicago Fire.”

A team news release cited the Fire’s global scouting operation, creation of a reserve team, acquisition of Swiss Super League club FC Lugano and development of Chicago Fire Academy players under Heitz’s direction. The Fire have promoted 10 homegrown players over the last four seasons, according to the release, including goalkeeper Chris Brady and midfielder Brian Gutiérrez — both selected to this year’s MLS 22 Under 22 list.

The Fire broke ground in April on a 23-acre practice facility at the site of a former Chicago Housing Authority complex on the Near West Side. The project has been embroiled in controversy and legal battles.

“Despite falling short of our collective goal to qualify for the playoffs,” Heitz said in a statement, “we have made improvements and professionalized the organization in multiple areas to be consistently competitive in the coming seasons and over the long term.

“We are confident that by adding the right pieces, we will be a strong contender in the Eastern Conference next season and become a team that brings more success and joy to our fans each week.”