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Is Portland the next MLS Franchise?

Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber was in Portland recently and he told a city task force he wants Portland to be home to one of the league’s next franchises according to the Portland Business Journal.

“We need to make a decision by March,” Garber said. “We want one of the teams to be in Portland”.

Portland is one of six cities competing for the one of two expansion franchises that would start play in MLS in 2011. The other cities are Atlanta, Miami, Ottawa, St. Louis and Vancouver.

This round of expansion is so important because FIFA, the game’s international governing body, mandates that leagues have an 18-team limit. The addition of Seattle next year and Philadelphia in 2010 will give MLS 16 teams, making the final two expansion franchises the league’s last.

I think that Portland would be a great addition to MLS. First of all, Portland has provided phenomenal support for its USL team. Second, a Portland franchise would keep the 30+ year Cascadia rivalry (the oldest rivalry in American Soccer) between the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers, intact and kicking.

If Portland gets a franchise, that will be bad news for Vancouver’s bid. I cannot see MLS giving two franchises to the same part of North America. Miami and Atlanta are interesting cities, but they will not have any natural rivals in MLS and I think this will hurt their chances.

That leaves Ottawa and St. Louis we will provide natural rivals for Toronto FC or the Kansas City Wizards. What cities do you think deserve the next two MLS franchises?