I’m in Portland and the lead story on the front page of the local paper is the arrival of MLS in the city. Here’s the league’s official announcement:
MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER AWARDS EXPANSION TEAM TO PORTLAND
League’s 18th Team Will Debut in 2011at renovated PGE Park
NEW YORK (Friday, March 20, 2009) – Major League Soccer has reached an agreement with The Paulson Family that will bring an MLS team to Portland in 2011, MLS Commissioner Don Garber announced today. The announcement of Portland as the League’s 18th club comes just two days after Vancouver was announced as the League’s 17th team, also beginning play in 2011.
“A city with such a storied soccer tradition deserves an MLS team, and we are proud to have Portland join the top level of professional soccer in our region,” Garber said. “Merritt Paulson and his family provide a vibrant and innovative ownership group that truly loves the world’s game and we believe PGE Park will provide a world-class soccer environment for soccer fans.”
Known for its fervent support of soccer since the heyday of the North American Soccer League’s Portland Timbers in the 1970s, Portland completes this round of expansion for MLS, which could expand to 20 teams by 2012 if two additional cities are deemed ready to join. The Portland MLS team will retain the storied Timbers name.
Merritt Paulson is the owner and president of Shortstop, LLC, parent company of the Portland Beavers and Portland Timbers professional sports franchises. Before assuming ownership of the baseball and soccer teams, he was the Senior Director of Marketing and Business Development at NBA Entertainment in New York.
“Today is a historic day for Soccer City, USA, and it is a big win for our economy, our community and for soccer fans everywhere,” Paulson said. “We are in a position to make this announcement today because of our incredible fans and strong leadership from city leaders. Not only does this bring Major League Soccer to Portland, but it creates hundreds of jobs, protects taxpayers from risk and shines a positive national and international spotlight on Portland and the state of Oregon.”
On March 11, Portland’s city council paved the way for today’s MLS announcement, voting to approve a proposal to improve PGE Park for MLS and to build a new ballpark for the Portland Beavers Triple-A baseball team at the site of the Memorial Coliseum.
“The Portland City Council’s recent approval of the framework for the renovations of PGE Park was a key factor in Portland becoming our 18th team,” Commissioner Garber added. “While I understand that there are some additional steps to formally conclude this process, we are confident that the package will be finalized in the next few months.”
Upgrades to PGE Park will transform the historic venue into a world-class soccer facility and provide an even more authentic fan experience for the MLS Timbers. The improvement will add several state-of-the-art amenities, including permanent seats and concessions on the east side of the park, widened concourses, improved player facilities and a restaurant with a view of the field.
The Timbers, who first entered the Portland professional sports landscape in the 1970s as a member of the NASL, will field a team in the United Soccer Leagues First Division in 2009 and 2010.
Individuals who purchase 2009 and 2010 Timbers season tickets will have top priority for 2011 MLS season seat selection. Likewise, business and entertainment suite-holders for the 2009 and 2010 Timbers season will have the first opportunity to purchase suites for the 2011 MLS season. Non-Timbers season ticket holders can place a $50 refundable deposit per seat to secure a priority 2011 MLS season seat selection. Call (503) 553-5555 or visit www.portlandtimbers.com for details.
Portland is home to the North American headquarters of adidas, official athletic sponsor and licensed product supplier for MLS and all its teams since 2005.
“adidas is synonymous with soccer and bringing the MLS to Portland is a great next step in our goal of inspiring a soccer nation,” said Patrik Nilsson, president, adidas North America. “As the sport’s global leader, we have seen first-hand the positive effects MLS expansion teams have on their markets. adidas is passionate about soccer. Portland loves soccer. Together as fans of the sport we will build on the traditions and passion that exist around soccer in our hometown.”
Portland becomes the third Pacific Northwest city in MLS, and its geographic rivalries with Seattle and Vancouver will be contested on the soccer field in front of spirited, colorful crowds.
By 2011, the League will have added a second team in Los Angeles, expanded its footprint to seven new markets, and returned to San Jose, in a six-year span. Real Salt Lake and Chivas USA joined in 2005, Houston Dynamo began play in 2006, Toronto FC debuted in 2007, and the San Jose Earthquakes returned as an expansion team in 2008. Last night Seattle Sounders FC played their inaugural match, in 2010, Philadelphia begins as the 16th team, and Vancouver and Portland take the field in 2011.