Pappa signs pre-contract with Dutch team

Chicago Fire midfielder Marco Pappa signed a pre-contract with SC Heerenveen in Holland and will join the club when the transfer window opens on Jan. 1, the team announced on Monday.

The Fire will retain Pappa’s MLS rights. He joined the Fire on loan from CSD Municipal on July 30, 2008. He has started 100 of his 110 MLS games and recorded 26 goals and 14 assists in his Fire career.

“I’m very excited about taking the next step in my career and signing with SC Heerenveen,” the 24-year-old Pappa said in a statement. “My focus is with the Fire and working hard to secure a spot in the MLS Cup Playoffs. The Fire gave me a great opportunity in 2008, and I am thankful to Fire owner Andrew Hauptman and Frank Klopas for the support and encouragement they have offered the past four years. I plan to do the club proud and put everything I have into the remaining matches with the Fire.”

Fire president of soccer operations Javier Leon expressed support for Pappa’s desire to play in Europe.

“Marco is a great player and has been a big part of the club for the last four years," Leon said in a statement. “Marco is a true professional and has really developed as a player while with the Fire. We understand Marco’s desire to play in Europe and fully support his move to Holland. It was key for us to keep Marco through the end of the season as we push for a spot in the MLS Cup Playoffs. We are grateful for his contributions to the club and believe Marco will represent the Fire well in Europe.”

Pappa was recently called up to play for Guatemala’s national team against Paraguay in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday. He has had 28 international caps for Guatemala.

The Fire are in fourth place in the Eastern Conference with 38 points.