It has been two and a half months since the Portland Timbers played a match, but the new season is coming up quickly and the the preseason even more so. Now there are only days until the Timbers are back in town, weeks until they play a game, and less than two months until the regular season kicks off.
With all that in mind, here is a quick rundown of the big dates that we know about and some guesses at the ones we don't.
Players Return to Portland
Starting on January 24th the Timbers, and the rest of MLS not in the CONCACAF Champions League, will return to training for the first time in 2015. The team will have the better part of a week in Portland before hitting the road for the warmer weather of the southwest.
January 24th - Timbers training camp opens
The Desert Friendlies
Just like last season, the Timbers will be heading to Tucson, Arizona for their preseason camp where they will play a pair of friendlies. Although the dates for the friendlies are set, the Timbers play Sporting Kansas City on 1/31 and the Houston Dynamo on 2/7, the exact dates that they will be in Tucson have yet to be released.
It seems likely that the Timbers will arrive one or two days before the match against SKC and will leave soon after playing the Dynamo, so expect this preseason trip to keep the team out of town from approximately 1/29 to 2/8.
The Timbers will likely add another scrimmage to their schedule during this period if previous preseasons are any indication, possibly against a local college team or a team in town early for training ahead of the Desert Diamond Cup later in the month.
This period could also see some of the biggest non-Timbers news of the season coming around the bend as the collective bargaining agreement between the MLS Players Union and the league expires after 1/31.
January 31st - Desert Friendly: Portland Timbers vs. Sporting Kansas City (Tucson, AZ)
January 31st - MLSPA collective bargaining agreement expires
February 7th - Desert Friendly: Portland Timbers vs. Houston Dynamo (Tucson, AZ)
The Simple Invitational
Following their return from Tucson, the Timbers will have two weeks in which to train before hosting a tournament of their own: the Simple Invitational. For the third straight year the Timbers will have three teams come to town for a round-robin tournament. The invitees for 2015 are the Chicago Fire, Vancouver Whitecaps, and Norway's Stabaek.
The Timbers will start off the tournament on 2/22 with a match against the Whitecaps, then will take on the Fire in a mid-week match on 2/25, and will round out the week with their final scheduled preseason match on 2/28 against Stabaek.
Barring any changes, the MLS international transfer window should open during the week before the invitational, likely on 2/18, allowing foreign players to be brought in via transfer.
This time-frame will also see designated player defender Liam Ridgewell return from his loan to the English Championship's Wigan Athletic. While the exact date of his return has yet to be confirmed, the Timbers have said that he will be back for the Simple Invitational. With matches on February 14th and 20th for Wigan, Ridgewell could be away from the Timbers until the very last minute before the invitational, or could potentially be sent home earlier.
February 22nd - Simple Invitational: Portland Timbers vs. Vancouver Whitecaps
February 25th - Simple Invitational: Portland Timbers vs. Chicago Fire
February 28th - Simple Invitational: Portland Timbers vs. Stabaek
The Start of the Season
Finally, with the invitational wrapped up the Timbers will have one week remaining before their season opener on 3/7. This year the Timbers will host Real Salt Lake during the first week of play in MLS. This will be the fourth year in a row that the Timbers have opened the season at home, but the first time since joining MLS in 2011 that the Timbers will not have played an Eastern Conference team in their home opener.
EDIT: There is also a good chance that MLS Jersey Week will take place in this final week before the season kicks off, if not earlier. Last year saw the new season's jerseys introduced in the first week of March and this year will likely be no different.
March 7th - Regular Season: Portland Timbers vs. Real Salt Lake