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Things to Watch for From the Portland Timbers in the New Year

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Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

In this short interval between Christmas and the New Year, very little tends to happen in the world of Major League Soccer; lists and compilations abound (don't worry, we'll have some of that as well), but there tends to be very little of substance actually occurring until the calendar ticks over to 2016.

So, if there is nothing going on just now -- even what few rumors there are surrounding the Portland Timbers are pretty uninspiring -- we might as well be ready for the glut of news and information that will surround us in early January.

The Schedule

We might know the Timbers' home opener -- hosting the Columbus Crew SC on March 6th, opening weekend for MLS -- but after that it is still unknown. Thankfully, the league has told us when the full schedule will be released: January 7th.

Cascadia Cup matches, teams played three times rather than twice, and which Eastern Conference teams will drop by Providence Park are all things to look out for when the schedule drops.

The Draft

The MLS SuperDraft might not be a huge event for the Timbers this year since, as winners of the MLS Cup, they will pick dead last. Still, it is always interesting to see what gems might be turned up by the team. In 2014 the Timbers found Taylor Peay in the second round of the draft and George Fochive in the third, now both are contributors recognized as potential starting XI level players in the league.

When the Superdraft rolls around on January 14th, the Timbers will have the 20th, 40th, 61st, and 81st picks. To get a jump on some of the players that could be available check out the 2016 MLS Combine, held January 7th through 12th, as well as the Soccer By Ives and Top Drawer Soccer draft boards.

The Contracts

With Rodney Wallace and Norberto Papratto still out of contract, the Timbers are missing two important, if not vital, parts of the side that brought the MLS Cup back to Portland. Additionally, Re-entry Draft selection Jermaine Taylor has yet to be announced as signing with the team and could potentially head overseas if he cannot come to terms with the Timbers.

The loss of any of the three players could leave the Timbers with a significant hole in their position, particularly meaningful with the team headed into the CONCACAF Champions League this year for the second time ever. With the Timbers' depth on the wing, at left back, and at center back all in question, getting each of those players back on board is certainly important for the team.

The Signings

With a proverbial pile of targeted allocation money still sitting around, the Timbers need to use it or lose it this year, so while the team could use it halfway through the season to buy down the contract of a new arrival then, there seems to be a pretty good chance that the Timbers will bring in a new arrival before then.

If the Timbers can find a player out of contract then that player could be added any time. If the team are looking for a loan or a transfer, however, they will need to wait until the transfer window opens on February 18th to bring in a player.

The Kits

We may have a good idea of what they look like now, thanks to a helpful tweet from Merritt Paulson, but we still don't know exactly when the new Timbers' kits will be announced. If it is anything like last season, expect MLS to wait until the very last second to show off the new kits, possibly even waiting until the week before the season starts.

The Beard

We are all anxious to see how much of it Nat Borchers actually cut off.

What are you looking forward to in the new year?