Stirring the pot, soccer-style

So we’ve had a rousing discussion of local soccer here today. I didn’t really mean to get into a soccer discussion, I was just noting the passing of the Blazers and Jax seasons and the beginning of the Beavers and Timbers seasons, and wrote “Timber time is here, too, though I personally don’t find that quite so exciting.” Anyway, it stirred up the Timbers faithful . And the inspired response of the Timbers Army got me thinking…

Yesterday, while I was at work, the guys on the local sports station were discussing professional soccer in Portland. Portland, known by many as Soccer City USA, has a devoted core of soccer fans. And in past World Cup competitions, Portland has packed out PGE Park in support of the US team and in appreciation of others. So it isn’t surprising that Major League Soccer is eyeing Portland as a potential expansion opportunity.

I have a couple of questions, and they’re directed at a few viewpoints:

1) Timbers Army folk, how would you feel about MLS coming here? I imagine it would be fine if they took on “The Timbers” brand, but what if they didn’t?

2) Casual fans, or non-fans, how successful do you think MLS would be here? Can Portland support an MLS franchise?

3) If you had a choice between professional football, professional hockey, professional baseball or professional soccer coming to town, which would you pick?

Anxious to hear your viewpoints…

21 Comments so far

  1. badfetch (unregistered) on April 17th, 2007 @ 11:18 pm

    First of all, I LOVE the Timbers. I read the posts from yesterday, but didn’t participate in the discussion. Sadly, I only make it out to a couple games a year, but that’s changing this year now that I live in town.

    Can Portland support an MLS franchise? Not sure, but I think there’s a better chance of an MLS team over any other professional team here.

    Choice between pro football, hockey, baseball or soccer? Soccer. Hawkey already rules, Beavers are enough to get the baseball fix, and there’s enough American-style football in the world already.

  2. bickle (unregistered) on April 18th, 2007 @ 6:53 am

    If an MLS team came to town and didn’t pick up the Timbers brand, I would know I was dealing with complete morons and I would have a long hard think ahead of me. It would be like marrying someone for the sex only to find out in the cold light of day that he/she was a Republican who put Velveeta on all his/her food: the moments of undeniable passion may not matter in such an ugly scenario. Seriously, though, if the current Timbers can get 1000-1500 people screaming their heads off and decking themselves out in gear for minor league soccer, why would anyone do anything to deter what could be a hardcore crowd of 10 times that much from forming? The Timbers ARE Portland professional soccer, and anyone with a lick of sense would know that. But licks of sense are, alas, rarer in this world than I would hope.

  3. Nando (unregistered) on April 18th, 2007 @ 7:22 am

    1. It would be sad if the new franchise did not take the name Timbers but alas money talks and the possibility of the current ownership asking and exuberant amount of money for the name is possible. What I would not want is a Mcteam, or red bull or some other corporate entity in the name.
    2. The Timbers with and “S” are in the top teams in regards to the attendance and Timbers Army is already respected worldwide as one of the best supporters groups in the USA.

    3. I would like the MLS to come to Portland so the team will not have to play o a baseball farm team along which would come real ownership and management.

  4. Totalnerd (unregistered) on April 18th, 2007 @ 9:02 am

    1) …how would you feel about MLS coming here?

    MLS would be great here for a lot of reasons (increased attendance, higher level of players/opponents, more national/int’l attention, better facilities, etc.). I HOPE we would be able to keep the Timbers name, but it might not be possible. If a Mexican or European team were the owners, we’d probably have their logo and name (e.g. Chivas, Crystal Palace, Alaves). I guess that would be ok. I agree with Nando though: I don’t want Pepsi FC or the Portland Cool Ranch Doritos as my team.

    3) If you had a choice…

    I think NFL would have a hard time here, but NHL and MLB would do fine. MLB in particular would help the soccer cause, in that they would probably have to build a new stadium elsewhere, leaving PGE available for an MLS team (and the PSU Vikes). Which would I CHOOSE? MLS. I love baseball, but I’ve got issues with MLB, and I don’t really care for hockey. As for NFL, my heart is already spoken for and I would be unable to switch allegiance (as I’ve done for the Trailblazers).

  5. Rusty (unregistered) on April 18th, 2007 @ 10:26 am

    Interesting thoughts so far. In terms of the available sports that could end up here, I’d tend to think that MLS or NHL would have the best shot. Both sports already have a track record here.

    But that’s the rub, too. Both sports have an established, successful minor league franchise with strong fans. I don’t get the sense while at Beavers games that the people there are really all that interested in the ongoing ups and downs of the team and their season. Like me, they seem to be there to catch the occasional ball game in nice weather. Or Little League kids there with their teams.

    While I haven’t been one of them, I’ve noticed definite and unmistakeable fan clusters at Timbers games and and Winterhawks games, and I wonder if those fans would translate. It’s clear from the comments so far that Timbers fans would be torn, since they love soccer, but they also love “The Timbers.” I have a sense, though, from listening around that Winterhawks fans are just as interested in getting a major league team here as they are in watching the minor league team that we have.

    I think NHL would be better poised to succeed. We have a modern facility with great capacity and nice amenities, and a potential owner (if there is an NHL team in Portland, I’d bet that Paul Allen would be the boss) who could operate on his own terms and wouldn’t be as beholden to the corporate concerns that the soccer fans who’ve commented have had.

    Totalnerd, you said in part that “MLS would be great here for a lot of reasons (increased attendance, higher level of players/opponents, more national/int’l attention, better facilities, etc.).” I wonder, though, where you get the idea of better facilities? Unless you get a team in here who’s going to build a new stadium, it appears that PGE Park is the only real venue that would accomodate MLS in the area, and I don’t see any real chance of any improvements to it. Does PGE Park have the capacity to support a MLS franchise?

    Another query for TA fans: first, I acknowledge that this comes from the guy that dissed Timber Jim yesterday; that said, this question is not meant to disparage him any more and is just an honest question. If MLS came here, and if they kept the Timbers brand, do you think they would keep Timber Jim? Does he fit in the MLS brand and scheme?

  6. yourstruly (unregistered) on April 18th, 2007 @ 10:29 am

    Even though I follow soccer, I’ve never been an MLS fan because of its gaudy marketing seemingly aimed at 15 year olds. However, I have to admit it would be an excellent fit in Portland, especially if it retained the Timbers brand and spirit. Since the season occurs during the summer, it would dovetail nicely with the Blazers, unlike the NHL. I think that in a town like Portland it would be hard to get good attendance figures at two major sports teams playing simultaneous seasons. Secondly, the MLS adheres to a very draconian wage structure regarding salary caps and new player signings designed to enforce parity. That means we would actually have a shot at being competitive. In comparison, I’ve never understood why we would go to such great lengths to bring a major league baseball team here, when our market size would inevitably make us a bottom feeder like the Kansas City Royals or the Pittsburgh Pirates. Of all the sports, baseball is the one in which your market size matters the most, and Portland simply doesn’t have the size to compete with the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Dodgers, et. all. Can you imagine 30,000+ turning out in Portland on a Tuesday night over the course of a 70-game home schedule to watch a loser play year in, year out.

  7. Rusty (unregistered) on April 18th, 2007 @ 10:46 am

    Yourstruly: I think you’re right that MLS has a better chance here than MLB. I don’t know that I agree that NHL would have a problem here. That fanbase has some overlap with the Blazers fanbase, but there are alot of people who like hockey who don’t give a damn about basketball. And with all the character issues that keep popping up in the NBA, I think the relatively clean NHL would be a nice change.

    Your analysis of the outlooks for team success appears sound, as well…

  8. Totalnerd (unregistered) on April 18th, 2007 @ 10:47 am

    I think PGE is a great stadium in a great location, and I do think it would be a fine fit for MLS. By better facilities, I mostly meant the field – currently we have what essentially amounts to painted concrete. MLS is pretty strict about their playing surfaces, and would undoubtedly install a real grass field. Add grandstands to the east end to up the attendance capacity, and you’ve got yourself a primo venue (PGE seats 19K+ for ballgames, and most MLS teams average around 15K in stadiums that seat around 25K).

  9. Rusty (unregistered) on April 18th, 2007 @ 10:50 am

    TN – Ah, got it. Thanks.

  10. pdxscoob (unregistered) on April 18th, 2007 @ 11:59 am

    As a rabid soccer fan and a winterhawks season ticket holder, I would have to say that MLS would be the best fit for Portland. The problems with and NHL franchise here would be that they would have to play at the Rose Garden. The Rose Garden was specifically built for hockey. The problem now is that you have the Blazers and now the Jax playing in there and there is no room on the schedule to turn over the arena for hockey. You would be far mistaken for NHL to play in the coliseum. Plus the Winterhawks have marketed themselves as family entertainment, as witnessed by the hundreds of little bastards chasing that damn blimp around for coupons for margarine and passes to the Sherwood Ice Arena.(not a fan of the blimp) but whatever. The Winterhawks is affordable family entertainment, if you bring NHL to town, parents would not be able to afford double the price of admission, or would think twice about inviting the neighbor kid.
    I agree with the above comments about MLB about us being a small market team that would not be able to compete. If MLS came they would have to build a Soccer Specific Stadium or kick the Beavers out of PGE and put down grass and put in bleachers in the east end.(my choice). So to recap yes to MLS(Timbers name please),not feasible for NHL, and not enough money for MLB, and oh NFL yawn!

  11. Julian (unregistered) on April 18th, 2007 @ 12:25 pm

    MLS seems like the best fit…

    Not a baseball fan, but they better call them the Isotopes if they do.

    NFL- personally, would like this the most, but I don’t see that being an even remote possibility.

    NHL- no need for that…the NHL is liked less than the league we already have

  12. Rusty (unregistered) on April 18th, 2007 @ 12:42 pm

    I’d actually think that if NHL came to town, the Jax would get bumped to the Coliseum, at least when there was a conflict. Between the leagues, they’d be the lower draw and wouldn’t have the leverage to force the NHL to move.

    In terms of the blimp and the “family” angle, that blimp makes the same rounds during Blazers games, and I would think it would make the same rounds for NHL.

    I see the point about what is desirable, in that as a fan I think anyone in their right mind would choose a cheaper ticket over a more expensive one. However, I think in terms of corporate profits and the sorts of things that drive people to buy and run teams, the Hawks probably couldn’t compete with an expansion (or, I’d think more likely, a transplanted) NHL franchise.

  13. markmcf (unregistered) on April 18th, 2007 @ 6:21 pm

    I’m sort of a TA member. I have gone to a few matches and plan to go to many more this season.

    PGE at 19k capacity or so is big enough for an MLS club right now. There is no pressing need to put more seats on the east side. There is a pressing need to replace the lousy turf with either real grass, or a much higher quality BogusTurf.

    The Beavers would have to play elsewhere. MLS would require more schedule flexibility than they could get sharing the stadium with a team that plays the same season. So this could be a real issue.

    Oh, MLS season is April to November, pre-season runs February through March.

    Ticket prices would no doubt go up for an MLS club, and unless the new owners were nuts, they’d keep the Timbers name and Timber Jim. When MLS started in San Jose they had Krazy George as cheerleader just as the Quakes of NASL did, even though the team was called The Clash. So I’m sure that MLS would want to go with the Timbers name and have Timber Jim do his thing. And he is a great guy, excellent mascot, and superior cheerleader.

    I agree with others posting here that other professional sports would be a tough sell here. MLS ticket prices are comparatively low, and attendance of 12k to 15k works. Especially given that the City doesn’t gouge the teams that rent PGE.

  14. El Fur de' Ball (unregistered) on April 18th, 2007 @ 8:46 pm

    The NFL will work in any market. It is by far the best marketed sport in the US.

    MLS makes the most sense for Portland. I use to really think the NHL would be a good fit, but I don’t think we can pack the Rose Garden with 20,000 fans a night with ticket prices that are more than the Trail Blazers.
    As others have said, marketing soccer to 15 year olds is pretty stupid. You don’t see the other major sports doing that. Portland is extremely lucky to have a fan group like the Timber Army and should be marketing to that demographic. Male 24-40. They are the ones with money.

  15. El Fur de' Ball (unregistered) on April 18th, 2007 @ 8:48 pm

    Oh, and as for the name Timbers. I think owners of the MLS would be fools to not name a team Timbers. Anyone remember FC Portland? I didn’t think so.

  16. andrew (unregistered) on April 19th, 2007 @ 12:36 am

    I think that MLS should partner with the USL and have relegations where the top two teams from USL go up and the bottom two teams from MLS go down. Only problem with that is sponsors probably be against this proposition. This I think would be a much better solution and it would still allow the Timbers and other teams to keep their names but still have the opportunity to play in a higher league. Relegation is a part of the soccer experience and has been apart of the game since soccer was created. It pretty much is a win win situation, except for those teams that suck, but they can go down to a lower league and get better. It would create a higher quality of soccer, as well as giving teams and players more reason to progress.

  17. Stiglr (unregistered) on April 19th, 2007 @ 8:08 am

    I’d say, in order, MLS (with Timbers team name, if at all possible!!), then NHL (if we can support the WinterHawks, why not a top level team?). Baseball *might* have a shot, but only if they built a stadium for it. PGE Park just cannot hope to host MLB.

    Anyone who’s posing the question, “Whether or not to keep Timber Jim” already has proven he or she doesn’t understand a damned thing about the Timbers. Would you write a column in Chicago a few years ago and wonder if it’s time to force out “that Harry Karay guy”? Or in L.A. trying to get somebody new to replace Chick Hearn? Would you write a column in a Stanford U. paper and discuss losing the Stanford Band?(admittedly annoying if you’re not a student or alumni) Of course not. All those examples were as much symbols of their respective teams as the top players and record holders for various statistical categories. These people, whether mascots, announcers or other personalities are SYMBOLS, and give a team its identity and character as much as the team colors (actually, even more so, since in the last decade teams change colors like chameleons).

  18. dieselboi (unregistered) on April 19th, 2007 @ 8:13 am

    I bet NASCAR will arrive within 30 min of Portland before MLB and MLS. I also agree that Portland wouldn’t be able to sustain NFL. I just see the huge juggernaut that is NASCAR taking over the world and it gives me nightmares.

  19. Rusty (unregistered) on April 19th, 2007 @ 8:27 am

    Stiglr: The question wasn’t meant to ask whether MLS should keep Timber Jim. The question was, if they came here, WOULD they? As I’m clearly not familiar with professional soccer, which has been pretty well established in the last three days, I don’t know whether he fits in the framework of MLS. Clearly, it would be a good idea if they want to keep the Timbers Army happy, but at the same time, I imagine (and I might be wrong here) MLS as more corporate and up-scale.

  20. Lendog (unregistered) on April 19th, 2007 @ 11:12 am

    I would like to see MLS come here and the fan groups ran like they do in Chicago and DC. The biggest question is whether the Beavers would be willing to move, and will they put down grass. Having a MLS team in Portland would be a good thing because the matches are covered on TV, not only in the US, but around the world. I would love to be in a foreign country and be at some odd pub watching the Timbers on TV. MLS would also bring in the chance of Portland hosting National team friendlies and qualifiers, which means more focus on our team and city as well. If we show the world that we are in fact a world class city for soccer and the fans keep doing what they are doing in 107 we won’t have a problem drawing world class players to our team, which means winning cups and travelling to different places to follow our team. Many USL players choose Portland because they like to play in front of our fans. If you see any article or interviews, they will say that they were drawn to Portland because of its fans. This I think is a good thing and players will want to stay, rather than whore themselves out to the highest bidder like what many players do now.

    If you want to see what the park looks like just check this photo from under the Womens world cup match scroll to the bottom. Grass and soccer specific for a limited time.

  21. Paul (unregistered) on April 19th, 2007 @ 5:18 pm

    The Portland Timbers would make a perfect addition to the MLS. I would buy season tickets!

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