Major League Soccer announced on Friday that Portland has been awarded an expansion franchise which will begin play in 2011. The announcement came two days after Vancouver was awarded a new team and one day after the expansion Seattle Sounders opened the 2009 campaign with a 3-0 victory over the New York Red Bulls.
“A city with such a storied soccer tradition deserves an MLS team, and we are proud to have Portland join the top level of professional soccer in our region,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said. “Merritt Paulson and his family provide a vibrant and innovative ownership group that truly loves the world’s game and we believe PGE Park will provide a world-class soccer environment for soccer fans.”
Known for its fervent support of soccer since the heyday of the North American Soccer League’s Portland Timbers in the 1970s, Portland completes this round of expansion for MLS, which could expand to 20 teams by 2012 if two additional cities are deemed ready to join. The Portland MLS team will retain the storied Timbers name.
Merritt Paulson is the owner and president of Shortstop, LLC, parent company of the Portland Beavers and Portland Timbers professional sports franchises. Before assuming ownership of the baseball and soccer teams, he was the Senior Director of Marketing and Business Development at NBA Entertainment in New York.
“Today is a historic day for Soccer City, USA, and it is a big win for our economy, our community and for soccer fans everywhere,” Paulson said. “We are in a position to make this announcement today because of our incredible fans and strong leadership from city leaders. Not only does this bring Major League Soccer to Portland, but it creates hundreds of jobs, protects taxpayers from risk and shines a positive national and international spotlight on Portland and the state of Oregon.”
On March 11, Portland’s city council paved the way for today’s MLS announcement, voting to approve a proposal to improve PGE Park for MLS and to build a new ballpark for the Portland Beavers Triple-A baseball team at the site of the Memorial Coliseum.
“The Portland City Council’s recent approval of the framework for the renovations of PGE Park was a key factor in Portland becoming our 18th team,” Garber added. “While I understand that there are some additional steps to formally conclude this process, we are confident that the package will be finalized in the next few months.”
Upgrades to PGE Park will transform the historic venue into a world-class soccer facility and provide an even more authentic fan experience for the MLS Timbers. The improvement will add several state-of-the-art amenities, including permanent seats and concessions on the east side of the park, widened concourses, improved player facilities and a restaurant with a view of the field.
Portland is also home to the North American headquarters of adidas, official athletic sponsor and licensed product supplier for MLS and all its teams since 2005.
“adidas is synonymous with soccer and bringing the MLS to Portland is a great next step in our goal of inspiring a soccer nation,” said Patrik Nilsson, president, adidas North America. “As the sport’s global leader, we have seen first-hand the positive effects MLS expansion teams have on their markets. adidas is passionate about soccer. Portland loves soccer. Together as fans of the sport we will build on the traditions and passion that exist around soccer in our hometown.”
Portland becomes the third Pacific Northwest city in MLS, and its geographic rivalries with Seattle and Vancouver will be contested on the soccer field in front of spirited, colorful crowds.