All year the possibility of a Portland Timbers' owned USL affiliate has been bandied about by the fans and press. Now however, with the Vancouver Whitecaps announcing a team of their own, the Timbers are looking more and more likely to end up with a "Timbers II" as Caleb Porter called the so-far hypothetical team at today's practice session.
With two young Ghanaian players, Abdul Fatawu Safiu and Lord Ofosuhene, on trial and a roster that seems full up, Caleb Porter put forward a Timbers II team as a possible destination for incoming players.
"We are also looking to add, perhaps, a Timbers II team in the future," said Porter. "We are looking at that as an option, so maybe these are guys that sign with that team. Maybe these are guys that we plug in there and bring along and eventually they end up being first team guys. We will see."
The addition of a Timbers controlled USL Pro team would give the Timbers a team that could assure their players regular minutes, rather than the team's current official arrangement with the Sacramento Republic that has seen the Timbers also loan out their players to Arizona United and the Orange County Blues.
For Porter, the direct control of the Timbers' organization over a Timbers II side seems to be the most important benefit. Whether it is for developing players or getting them match fit, Porter seemed to see the team's affiliate as a direct source of players for the first team, something that Sacramento, with their own ambitions of moving up to MLS, could never be.
"I think it's a feeder to the first team. It is guys that are not playing for the first team, maybe it is guys that are coming off of injuries and we can get them games there, maybe it is the way that we are using our guys on loan right now and getting them games and developing them; that is the reason that we would do it. It is an option."
Although he seemed very invested in the idea, Porter confirmed that nothing was yet set in stone.
"We haven't completely made a final decision on that, but we are kind of leaning that way and hoping that that is something that we could do."
If the Timbers were to create a directly operated USL Pro affiliate, they would be joining the LA Galaxy, whose LA Galaxy II started play this year, as well as the Whitecaps, the Seattle Sounders, the New York Red Bulls, and 2015 expansion side Orlando City FC, all of whom have announced plans for USL Pro sides of their own.
In Los Angeles, Galaxy II have already been successful in league play, sticking around the top of the table despite several players being shuffled in and out of the lineup. Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of the program so far has been defender Kofi Opare, who stayed fit the the Galaxy II before having the opportunity to stake a first team spot while Omar Gonzalez was away with the USMNT.
Similarly, Chandler Hoffman has found his way into the 18 for the Galaxy first team after tearing up the USL Pro scoring charts and scoring eight goals in eleven appearances for the Galaxy II.
Although a Timbers II is not yet official, it seems to be something that makes almost too much sense not to come to fruition.