For the second season in a row, Minnesota United will be the first team that the Portland Timbers face in their home stadium. It’s an honor, really, for our club to be a part of an atmosphere like that. I love the experience of TCF Bank Stadium, but the energy of Providence Park is palpable even through a TV screen.
The Timbers’ path to Major League Soccer is similar to that of Minnesota, albeit several years earlier. Merritt Paulson bought the Timbers in 2007, then playing in the USL-Pro, and immediately began the process of making them an expansion franchise. His wish was granted, and Portland began play in the 2011 season.
Portland also had some stadium issues in the beginning. Paulson had also purchased the Portland Beavers, a minor league baseball team. A soccer stadium was required for MLS entry, but instead of building a new stadium, Paulson wanted the Timbers to play in a renovated Beavers’ stadium while the baseball team had a new facility built. And so Providence Park came into being.
What a place for a soccer team to play—the club has never failed to sell out a home game, and the season ticket waitlist is impressive for any professional sports franchise. It’s my guess that Minnesota United will regularly sell out Allianz Field with ease, especially as the team improves and soccer continues to grow in popularity.
The Timbers franchise has been solid as it has grown as well. Paulson added a USL affiliate in 2015, though Minnesota will likely do that earlier in their timeframe. Even more importantly, Portland received an NWSL team. The Portland Thorns began play in 2013 alongside the Timbers and have been immensely successful.
As the women’s game is rapidly growing in Minnesota—the new WPSL North and continual success of the Gophers being major factors—it would seem that an NWSL franchise isn’t terribly far off.
The Timbers’ seasons have been up and down. They made the playoffs for the first time in their third season, but won MLS Cup in their fifth. I think it’s very reasonable for fans to expect a championship in 2021, or maybe even sooner.
I’ve written before that I often wish Minnesota United’s approach was more like that of Atlanta United or Los Angeles Football Club, but at the same time, the business model of the Portland Timbers—which is more achievable, I think—is a very good one to follow.