In their final year as a USL team, the Portland Timbers played a friendly against Manchester City of the EPL. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
As promised to many of our new readers, today I am kicking off a series designed at informing people who weren't necessarily Timbers fans prior, to the history and workings of the club. Particularly for many of our friends over at Blazersedge.
Just keep one thing in mind, while I'm am going to try and make this as accurate as possible there are actually a lot of details. So if I omit something by accident or get something completely wrong, just let me know in the comments and I'll fix it.
Anyway, onto the history lesson!
North American Soccer League
The Portland Timbers are not a new team. New owners, new league, new players yes, but not a new a team entirely. In fact, of all the clubs playing in MLS today, the Portland Timbers will be considered one of the oldest teams dating back to the now-defunct NASL (North American Soccer League).
Created back in 1975, the Portland Timbers began their first ever season in Civic Stadium (PGE). The team actually had a great start in the NASL attracting audiences well above the national average and generally being considered one of the best supported clubs in the old league. This is actually where our city's nick name "Soccer City USA" stems from.
Anyway, as the NASL leagues wore on and the league as a whole became financially drained, clubs began dying off in rapid succession. Come 1982, the Portland Timbers NASL team folded, along with a few other teams in that year. By the end of 1984 the entire league was gone entirely.
During this era the Timbers didn't win any trophies, but did play host to Pele's final competitive game at Civic Stadium.
Western Soccer Alliance/American Professional Soccer League
Alright, here is where history gets a little fuzzy. A few year after the folding of the official NASL Portland Timbers team, an amateur club was created called F.C. Portland (Football Club Portland). This team played in the WSA (Western Soccer Alliance) until 1989 when the team officially changed it's name to the Portland Timbers.
In 1990 the WSA merged with another league to form the American Professional Soccer League, but a year later the team will have folded for a second time, along with, yet another soccer league.
I don't know how many trophies, if any, were won during this time, nor do I have any specific stats. Like I said, this was a very hazy period for American soccer.
Fun fact, though, Kasey Keller -- Seattle's current goalkeeper -- played for this version of the Timbers from 1989-1990. So, technically, Keller was at one point a Timbers guy. Funny.
United Soccer Leagues
Ten years later, and about seven years after MLS was officially founded (five years after league play began), the Timbers, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, was born anew in the USL (United Soccer Leagues) a division 2 minor league in the US. This is, essentially, where we've been playing up until now and has been, by a couple years now, the longest iteration of the Timbers.
During this age of our existence the Timbers actually thrived. It was a completely different growth pattern from the way our NASL exploded onto the seen only to drift away quietly. Instead, beginning in 2001 the Timbers averaged over 5,000/game for their first four years in existence. Those numbers might seem paltry for fans of major league franchises, but for a minor league soccer team it was pretty good.
This was also the period during which the Timbers Army slowly grew from a huddled few in section 107 of PGE to the the raging mob (figuratively) that it is today, although I'll touch more on our venerable supporter group at a later date.
During this time we also didn't win the "official" league trophy, although we did win the Commissioner's Cup twice, once in 2004 and again in 2009. This is the trophy given out to the team with the most points at the end of the regular season prior to when the play-offs begin. The winner of the regular season is, in my opinion, the true league champions as it shows the team which has been the most consistent in winning throughout the year.
Major League Soccer
In 2007, the current Portland Timbers team (as well as the Portland Beavers) was bought by our current owner Merritt Paulson. As far as I know, Paulson bought the team with the express intent on acquiring an MLS franchise in the near future.
On March 20th, 2009 Don Garber, the commissioner of MLS, and Merrritt Paulson held a joint press conference announcing that the Timbers would be elevated to the top flight league in 2010. What followed next was a series of back and forths on whether it would actually happen or not depending on the city council and other political issues like finding a new stadium for the Portland Beavers (Portland's now defunct AAA baseball team).
Overall, though, the process has been fairly smooth. We are now less than three months from kick off, PGE (to be named something else next year) is under construction to turn it into a soccer specific stadium (also to be used by the PSU Vikings football team), and we now have half (15) of our current roster signed.
The first game for the 2011 is now set for March 19th at 6:00PM against the Colorado Rapids (2010 MLS Cup Champions).
Well, I hope this brief (maybe not so much?) history lesson has brought you up to speed a little bit on who we are as a team and where we are heading. As you can see we have a ton of history that's made us a truly a special team within the league.
The next part in the series will detail a little bit about MLS, the workings of the league, and how everything works with the drafts and such. It will probably be a much longer piece, so be prepared for that.