Portland should be a “slam dunk” for MLS


Commissioner Don Garber visited Portland this week and touched base with perhaps the most passionate fans any club team has north of the Mexican border. The fans of the Portland Timbers dating back to the initial NASL entry in 1974 have been more reminiscent of the die in the wool fans of European football than the casual “soccer mom” support MLS has typically courted. As football grows from a niche sport that is marketed to suburbanites to a game that resembles football outside the cocoon of American professional sporting life, Portland is the most natural place for MLS to grow.

Despite on and off success, the Timbers of USL-1 have averaged over double the fans that USL-1 sides in Miami and Atlanta have averaged.With regards to Miami this is significant because we have already outlined south Florida’s unwillingness to embrace a product that may not resemble top class European or Latin Football. Portland has already proven with its support of USL-1 it will embrace any football related product.

The Timbers also averaged higher attendance than regional rival, the Seattle Sounders who now are headed to MLS. The Sounders have sold upwards of 20,000 season tickets and now have attracted Sigi Schmid as its manager. The Sounders being joined by the Timbers in MLS would bring a genuine European derby feel to MLS for the first time (sorry the LA Superclassico is kids stuff compared to this). In USL, this rivalry has been the most intense around: in fact it has been openly speculated for many years that Portland has been passed over for MLS expansion because of the type of fans the USL Sounders have attracted: loud, passionate and committed. Previous to 2006, MLS was more interested in wooing casual American sports fans than passionate football support. Perhaps this change in philosophy will also mean that the league will be more successful in Miami a second time around. Whether that is the case, one thing that is for sure is that MLS will work in Portland. Not only will new and passionate fans come to the league, but the prospect of the Northwest derby moving to MLS against Seattle is one of the most exciting things that could happen in the league. Thus the admission of the Timbers should be a no-brainer for MLS.

14 thoughts on “Portland should be a “slam dunk” for MLS”

  1. You're 100% correct about the prospect for a Seattle-Portland derby in MLS, that one dates back to the 1970's in the NASL.

    MLS should not make the mistake of thinking Seattle and Portland's soccer fans overlap. They do not at all and never have–the number of people in Portland who will cheer for the Sounders in MLS is zero–they are two completely separate and unrelated markets, despite physical proximity, and have been for nearly 40 years.

    This is different than other sports where some people in Portland might cheer for the Seahawks and Mariners, and some of us in Seattle are starting to cheer for the Blazers now that we don't have an NBA team. But cheer for the Timbers? Sure, when hell freezes over.

    And bring in Vancouver while you’re at it! The soccer culture in all 3 cities is solid—all three teams have retained their NASL names from the 1970’s, and drew traveling fans back then. The Sounders-Whitecaps rivalry goes back as just as far as Seattle-Portland.

  2. Portland is an excellent soccer city, but the MLS “braintrust” seems to be intent on taking the biggest cheques, not the best footy markets. Otherwise they wouldn't have price gouged Montreal to the point where the Saputos said, “screw it”.

    One other concern for Portland – while it may be a venerable old stadium that's a massive part of Portland sport folklore, PGE park looks like total shit on TV. I have a suspicion that, as a soccer stadium, it falls short.

  3. Portland will eventually be in MLS. Fix up PGE Park first. Give them a team and the owner loses all leverage. See Houston Dynamo.

  4. Well, they're gauging everybody, true. But the fee is skyrocketing – Don't forget, TFC paid all of $10 million 3 years ago, and the league admission isn't exactly a license to print cash.

    Montreal has negotiated with MLS for a few years now, and are so far the only one to say “Thanks, but no thanks” to the $40 Million price tag.

    And I'll admit, it remains to be seen just how wise that decision will prove to be. Nevertheless, MLS got too greedy. Not only did they lose an excellent market, they also lost out on the chance to cripple USL (I'm not a fan of that, but MLS wold be well interested) in the process.

  5. gotta get out of PGE park. Soccer Specific is the way to go.

    A guy like Paul Allen would be acutely aware of the need for a strong rival for Seattle and probably could be tempted to help do something about it. Obviously, his involvement in Seattle is not a stumbling block to potentially assisting Portland.

    Maybe in a few years Allen could be tempted to jump from Seattle to Portland and stoke the rivalry even further.


  6. Your article neglects to mention the most expensive part of the taxpayer bill: Mr. Paulson is insisting on an additional $45M+ stadium for his money-losing AAA baseball team. This is as a package deal, take it or leave it.

    It's reasonable for Portland soccer fans to want their new franchise and a better stadium, and as you suggest, it would be a (probably) no-brainer if that was all we were talking about. It isn't.

  7. Your comment neglects to mention that the city will borrowing the money and repaying it with the increased revenue , therefore costing the taxpayer nothing.

  8. And your comment neglects to mention that you LOVE soccer and therefore are willing to make stuff up if it gets you your team.

    At best, once the deal is struck, there will be SOME money from ticket sales that will defray SOME of the public costs. Nobody but anonymous internet posters are claiming that these revenues will pay the entire cost. Don't believe me? Ask Merritt Paulson. He isn't claiming what you're claiming.

    Portland's soccer fans are hurting their own credibility on this issue by playing fast and loose with the truth, and people are going to stop listening to you when it becomes clear that you'll say anything, no matter how preposterous, to get the team you want. You need to calm down and try to be a little more respectful towards those who are asking tough questions about this giveaway of public money.

  9. Classic propaganda. Focus on what Merritt Paulson isn't saying. He also isn't saying the Timber's uniforms would be lined with kitten pelt.

    But actually you're the one that's off. Sam Adams said the plan needs to be a net benefit for taxpayers for it to be approved and Merritt supports this goal. Last I checked, most people considered 'benefit' to mean something like the opposite of 'cost'.

    You neglected to mention that you were somehow against this plan without knowing what it actually is. Where is your bias coming from?

  10. “In USL, this rivalry has been the most intense around: in fact it has been openly speculated for many years that Portland has been passed over for MLS expansion because of the type of fans the USL Sounders have attracted: loud, passionate and committed. “


  11. Pay no attention to the troll. He's been making up numbers and spreading lies on every soccer and Portland forum. You're just wasting your time. Let the trolls have their internet victories while we win at City Hall.

  12. In USL, this rivalry has been the most intense around: in fact it has been openly speculated for many years that Portland has been passed over for MLS expansion because of the type of fans the USL Sounders have attracted: loud, passionate and committed.

    ???? HUH ????

    The Sounders attracted loud, passionate and committed fans? Everytime I've seen their supporters section it's about 40 fat dudes with a smoke machine. Compare that with 2,000-3,000 screaming chanting Timbers Army members.

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