On this day, forty years ago, the Portland Timbers were born. Or, well, Oregon Soccer, Inc. was awarded a franchise in the North American Soccer League. But hey, anniversaries are anniversaries and this is a big one for the Rose City. Sure there was soccer in Portland for a full century before the NASL came calling in 1975, and matches had even been contested on the exact field where the Timbers would play since 1893. But professional soccer, that was new, and as it turned out, hugely important in the early days of top tier sports in Portland.
From the group's incorporation in October 1974, it took Oregon Soccer, Inc. several months to get their act together and raise the money necessary to pay the NASL's $100,000 franchise fee (plus an additional $250,000 required for working capital). John Gilbertson and Don Paul, the men behind the bid, aimed to secure the money invested in soccer from local sources, unlike the Portland Trail Blazers, who were at that time financed mostly out of Los Angeles.
Though they pushed the NASL to the limits of numerous deadlines, OSI finally reached the necessary threshold in mid-January 1975. By that time, four other cities had been granted expansion franchises for the quickly approaching season: Chicago, Tampa, San Antonio and Hartford. OSI's inclusion brought the league to an even twenty teams for the 1975 season. Portland joined Los Angeles, Seattle, San Jose and Vancouver, each of whom had been founded in 1974, in the burgeoning western frontier of American soccer. The name 'Portland Timbers,' the familiar axe and chevrons logo and of course coaches and players arrived over the next three months between the January 23 birth date and the club's first game on May 2.
So today we celebrate the 40th anniversary of Portland Timbers. On March 7, when Real Salt Lake arrive at Providence Park, the Timbers will begin their fifth MLS season and (though the club has been silent on this front) their twenty-fifth season overall. It's not the oldest club around, and it certainly hasn't been the most the most successful, but it's what we've got. So whether you've been watching the Timbers since that rainy night in May 1975 or are a recent convert in the MLS era, this is a day worthy of celebration.
From the club's first player, Mick Hoban, to its most recent acquisition, Nick Besler; legends like Willie Anderson, John Bain, Byron Alvarez and Diego Valeri; owners who saved or lifted the club to new heights like Harry Merlo, Art Dixon and yes, Merritt Paulson; coaches from Vic Crowe to Caleb Porter; mascots from Timber Jim to, well, Timber Joey; and from Civic Stadium, PGE Park, Jeld-Wen Field and Providence Park, there's a lot to be thankful for and to reminisce about.
And yet, today also marks the opening day of training camp for the 2015 Timbers season. It's the perfect reminder that while the past is indeed valuable and worthy of celebration, particularly on days like today, each new season brings with it the possibility of new memories, new records and new legends.