By Ryan Fleming
Two new teams are coming into the MLS this year, the Portland Timbers and the Vancouver Whitecaps. That we know. What we don’t know is how successful Canada Part Deux will be. Toronto FC, the league’s first Canadian team, has an enormous following, something I experienced first hand when I went down for the MLS Final. They have supporter bars and clubs that emphasize how much our neighbors to the North really appreciate their team. The rest of the country should take notice.
The MLS decided to give it another go by giving the Whitecaps a gateway into the MLS.
Questions, if there were any, surrounding the decision to make the Timbers part of the league are by now alleviated. The team announced, as of yesterday, that they reached 10,000 season ticket holders and will cap the total at 12,000 – again showing how much people in the Northwest really care about their team, or are just bored and they need something, anything to get behind.
If the Timbers prove to be a successful franchise within the confines of the MLS, then the league and commissioner Don Garber will be patting themselves on the back. More than just a gentle patting could be in order if Portland’s fan base lives up to expectations.
After this year’s World Cup, where the undeniable Yanks fought and scrapped for everything they earned, many, including myself, had high hopes that the sport would finally take off. In a country where the sport was viewed as “un-American” and “feminine” perhaps the back-against-the-wall comeback vs. Slovakia and Algeria would prove that indeed this “boring sport” could exist in America.
There’s been more talk of soccer in the mainstream media’s conversation of sport since the mid-summer tournament. More interest has been shown in the sport, but equally in the well-being of the United States national teams. I can recall going into bars, even in the western part of Massachusetts (where I’m from) – not exactly soccer crazy – and not having to fight for Landon Donovan and company to grace me with their presence even in an exhibition game on the television screen.
It’s coming along at a crawl. For me, too slow, but I’ll take it. If the Timbers can replicate what their western neighbors, the Seattle Sounders can do, then maybe the rest of the country can see that almost 3,000 miles away, across the country, people are having fun, waving flags, watching the world’s sport. It’s time for the rest of us to stop watching and start joining.
Ryan Fleming can be reached at email@example.com.