Officials are expecting between 10,000 and 20,000 fans for a free viewing party today at Soldier Field of the World Cup elimination match between U.S. and Belgium.
“It’s late in the day, at 3:00 p.m., and people are already taking the day off for the Fourth of July weekend,” said Sinhue Mendoza, U.S. Soccer spokesman. “And it’s an elimination game. It’s do-or-die now.”
While kick-off for the round-of-16 game is scheduled for 3 p.m, fans can enter Soldier Field starting at 1:30 p.m. Tailgating is permitted at the stadium’s outdoor parking lots, which will open at 12:30 p.m.
Many of Soldier Field’s normal security procedures will apply to the game, and fans’ bags and personal belongings will be subject to search upon entering the stadium. Normal parking fees at the stadium will be in effect, and alcohol and other concessions will be sold inside, Mendoza said.
As soon as the whistle sounded at the end of Thursday’s U.S. group stage match against Germany, signaling the end of the game and the U.S.’s eligibility for the round of 16, U.S. Soccer began making preparations for Tuesday’s viewing party.
While viewing parties for the group stage games were held in Grant Park and on Balbo Drive, Soldier Field — a 61,500-capacity stadium — seemed like a safe, spacious venue for Tuesday’s game.
“Soldier Field has a huge screen in general for Bears games, and it’s in a central location,” Mendoza said. “People can easily get to it via public transportation.”
Fans will be able to stand on Teraplast turf covering on the field, where they can watch the screen at the north end of the stadium. Fans can move up into the stadium’s seating bowl to watch the game as well.
CTA will be extending its longer Orange, Brown and Green line morning rush trains into the afternoon to accommodate attendees, said CTA spokeswoman Catherine Hosinski. Additional personnel will be stationed at its Red Line subway and Wabash stations.
Metra spokeswoman Meg Reile said the commuter rail agency is not planning any additional service for the game, as its weekday schedule already runs trains frequently. Unlike Thursday’s match against Germany, Metra does not plan to ban alcohol from its trains, since Soldier Field’s concessions will be providing fans with alcohol.
“We’ll be treating the event like a regular Bears game,” Reile said.