The Chicago Fire are close to completing a club-record deal to sign Belgian center forward Hugo Cuypers to a Designated Player contract, sources confirmed to MIR97 Media. Tom Bogert of The Athletic reported the story first.
Cuypers, 26, joined his current club Gent a year and a half ago, and already has 17 goals in all competitions this season, adding to his 34 from last year. He is one of the top Belgian forwards currently and has garnered attention from the national team setup, though he is yet to make his international debut.
The addition of Cuypers fills the Fire’s most important roster need, and that is a top, reliable, DP #9. The Fire haven’t had a DP striker since Robert Berić, who was largely disappointing in his second season after a respectable debut campaign. Last season’s forward core of Kei Kamara, Georgios Koutsias, and Kacper Przybyłko combined for just 12 goals between them, making the position a top priority in the offseason.
Upon his arrival, Cuypers will immediately be the Fire’s go-to striker. Koutsias will serve as his understudy, looking to build on a respectable 2023 season which was his first in MLS, and Tom Barlow will provide reserve following his trade from the New York Red Bulls in December. The future remains unclear for Przybyłko, as it is unclear exactly how he fits into this puzzle following another frustrating season in 2023.
Though the Fire will be Cuypers’ eighth club, this will be the first time he’s left Europe. Prior to joining Gent, he spent time at Mechelen (Belgium), Olympiacos (Greece), Ajaccio (France), and others. Cuypers has found the most success since returning to the Belgian Pro League in 2021, as he has notched 45 goals in 89 appearances over that span.
The transfer for Cuypers will be for an estimated fee of around $14 million, the third most expensive fee in league history. It will also smash the club record set by Xherdan Shaqiri in 2022, which was just under $8 million. The deal is not yet completed, but it is close, and the Fire hope to finalize it in the coming days.