My local paper reports this morning that Major League Soccer’s (MLS) top officials are again eyeing the Rose City’s potential as an expansion market. While nothing definitive appears in the article- for instance, no talk of negotiations, advanced or otherwise – it’s easy to disregard this as a simple means of keeping the lines of communication open. Indeed, the official line on the visit boils down to providing MLS Commish Don Garber with a chance “to see [PGE Park] in ‘game condition’ for a significant event.”
Reality aside, however, just seeing the reefer to the headline on the top of The Oregonian’s sports section set some wheels to spinning in my head – and those along somewhat urgent lines. Between Merritt Paulson’s (perhaps throw-away) figure on what it would cost to get the Portland Timbers’ PGE Park up to MLS standards and with a Seattle team to MLS looking powerfully firm for a rumor, it occurs to me that the future is now for Portland getting an MLS team.
Let’s separate this to make it prominent: Portland should get a Major League Soccer franchise in the same round of expansion that takes in Seattle, which looks to be 2009.
Clear self-interest aside (self-interest? where!?), a couple things recommend getting the Pacific Northwest “toe” in the national footprint in place all at once. To begin, if Seattle plays in one league and Portland in another, the risk of the rivalry between them losing its bite grows with each year – e.g. Seattle gets fixated on, say, San Jose, while Portland starts worrying about Vancouver’s Whitecaps. Pull both teams into the league at once and – Whammo! – enjoy the eye-gouging basement brawl between two expansion teams already entangled in regional rivalry. Second, the simultaneous move not only folds the Pacific Northwest region into league with a bang, it essentially wraps up the Western coast footprint. After Portland, Seattle and San Jose, where else does MLS go in a 18, or even 20, team league?
The last piece provides a nice segue into the larger question of expansion: where does MLS go to get its 18 teams by 2012? Continue reading