Monday February 9th, 2015

Illinois and Northwestern have agreed to play three games at Soldier Field in Chicago, the Fighting Illini announced Monday.

The three-game series will begin this fall, with the intra-state Big Ten rivals meeting at the home of the NFL's Chicago Bears on Nov. 28. The game was originally scheduled at Memorial Stadium in Champaign.

The following two games at Soldier Field will be played in 2017 and 2019. Northwestern will host Illinois at Ryan Field in 2016 and 2018.

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"It's exciting to seize the opportunity to further engage our incredible number of Illinois alumni and fans in the Chicagoland area with these three football games coming to Soldier Field," Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas said. "As the flagship university in the state we are committed to all Fighting Illini and, as part of that mindset, we will continue to bring a variety of athletics events to Chicago where we have the largest alumni base of any Big Ten institution."

The Fighting Illini last played at Soldier Field against Washington in 2013. Illinois and Northwestern also played a game at Wrigley Field in 2010 -- albeit with slightly modified rules because the entire field wouldn’t fit inside the friendly, but cramped, confines.

Illinois said the City of Chicago and Chicago Park District are "solidly" behind the agreement.

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"I'm pleased that the Fighting Illini will be returning to Chicago, providing an opportunity for players, coaches, students, fans and Chicago alumni to gather in the country's greatest and most-spirited sports city," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement. "From the NFL draft to the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship tournament, Chicago is solidifying its position as a first-class sports and tourism destination."

Dating back to 1892, Illinois leads the head-to-head series with Northwestern 55-48-5. The Fighting Illini won the schools' last matchup on Nov. 29, 2014, in a 47-33 victory in Evanston.

Mike Fiammetta

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