MLS Expansion: Portland?


As part of an occasional series of posts on MLS expansion contenders, I thought it worth taking a look at Portland’s efforts to join the League in 2011.  The bid centers on a proposal to upgrade PGE Park, the home of a minor league baseball team and the Portland Timbers of the USL.  According to the folks at, a $40 million upgrade will take PGE to MLS standards.

Interestingly, the driving force behind the Portland bid is Merritt Paulson, son of the former Secretary of the Treasury.  Paulson is seeking $85 million in public money to support the bid, renovate the stadium and construct infrastructure.  Given the economic climate, and his father’s prominent role in the bailout, there is no small irony in Paulson’s leading the charge for a raft of public money.

Soccer has been successful in the City of Roses at the USL level and as a “one sport town” Portland is an attractive market.  This is especially so, when that one sport is the NBA (with only a small amount of schedule overlap).  Using Columbus as a model, there is good reason to believe that a Portland franchise backed by big money and a solid stadium, can succeed.

The bid was recently rocked by scandal, when Portland mayor Sam Adams, a strong proponent of the bid, admitted to an inappropriate relationship with a teenage female.  With franchise announcements expected in about a month, it will be interesting to see whether the Mayor’s problems will drag down Paulson’s efforts.  Portland has long been a soccer hotbed, and with Seattle entering the League in 2009, there is great potential for a natural rivalry.

I think Portland is a great fit.  I’ve long believed that medium markets like Columbus, Salt Lake City and San Jose are perfect locations for MLS franchises. Yes you need the big cities, but in New York and Boston, MLS is barely a blip on the sports landscape.  In smaller cities, the teams are a focus of local medial and a source of community pride.


7 Responses

  1. Ben – I completely agree with you. Great site!

  2. Ben, Just how do you qualify San Jose as a medium Market and Boston as a “Big City” market? The city of San Jose is almost a third larger than Boston and the Metro area of the San Francisco/San Jose Bay Area is also a third larger than the Boston/Cambridge/Quincy area. The SF/SJ media market is the 5th largest in the nation. Boston/Cambridge is not even in the top 10. So how exactly do you get to San Jose being a medium market?

  3. That is a fair question. The comment wasn’t population based (and frankly, it probably is not without some east coast bias). However, my thinking was more directed to sports identity, not market size. Reading the Boston and New York papers, MLS is largely an afterthought (especially in NY). I find the coverage of the Mercury News suggestive of a better MLS identity in San Jose. One of the reasons I support the bid for Portland, is because I think that cities with less of footprint in the big four sports, do have something special to offer MLS in terms of capturing the attention of a city and its Media. While I recognize that San Jose can certainly lend its support to the Bay Area teams, it doesn’t lend its name. That was the thinking.

    Joseph: Out of curiosity, where do you come down on the Portland bid?

  4. […] Portland Heating Up? Last week, we  posted about Portland’s efforts to land a Major League Soccer Franchise in 2011.  On Tuesday, […]

  5. […] that said, I think the Vancouver bid is attractive for many of the same reasons I support Portland.  The money is there, the support is there and as a “mid-size city” (for sports […]

  6. […] Remarkably, the loan package is still not guaranteed safe passage through the City Council.  Some City money is still required, even with Paulson contributing 80% of the funds.  A vote may go forward as early as March 11.  Additional details of the Portland expansion bid can be found here and here. […]

  7. […] the next expansion announcement is coming soon.  One more team is expected to be added for 2011.  Portland remains the leader coming into the home […]

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