The Portland Timbers are one of the three Cascadia teams that currently exist in MLS. It is also one of five first-division North American soccer teams in men’s soccer if one is also including the two CPL teams as well. Portland’s name, like with their two Cascadia rivals, dates back to before MLS was born.

The Portland Timbers Name: How It Came To Be

The Portland Timbers team name came from their original North American Soccer League team that was in operation from 1975-82. The original NASL was a first-tier pro men’s soccer league for both Canada and the U.S. from 1968-84. The Timbers name came from a prospective Supporters’ Group fan contest in 1975, as it was the second-most popular name listed. The most popular name was the “Pioneers.” However, with the nearby Lewis and Clark College also considered the Pioneers, there could have been a trademark issue, or at least some confusion (source: The 1975 Portland Timbers: The Birth of Soccer City, USA on Michael Orr in 2012).

The colours and logo came largely from that original Timbers team and name:

“The Portland logo was designed to be round to mimic the shape of a soccer ball; the axe was a manifestation of a prominent industry in the Northwest; the chevrons were a stylized version of a tree,” says Dennis O’Meara, the 1975 public relations director. This quote is from page C6 of the Oregonian newspaper on March 23, 1975.

Look at the Timbers logo and colours today and it looks almost the same. This is especially true with the colour green, which dates back to their NASL days. There are some differences with the old logo. For example, there are less lines in the present-day logo within the soccer ball compared to the NASL team. Still, it looks very similar to the old logo with the axe and soccer ball shape.

They came in the league in 2011 along with the Vancouver Whitecaps FC because of the success of their second-tier division teams. In Portland’s case, the team can be traced back to 2001, where they played for the A-League, USL First Division, and, in 2010, played in the temporary USSF Division 2 Professional League. The announcement was made in 2009, when the then Timbers and then Portland Beavers owner, Merritt Paulson, was able to get the deal done with the help of city contacts (source: Nigel Jaquiss of the Willamette Week Online).

Note: Paulson stepped down and was replaced by Heather Davis at the start of last year as the new CEO of the Timbers (source: MLSsoccer staff).

The Creation of Providence Park

Providence Park is a multi-use sports stadium that has been used since 1926. It was around before 1926 in different forms, the original stadium was built in 1893 as Multnomah Field. It was also known as PGE Park, Civic Stadium, and Jeld-Wen Field before the current site was built in 1926 for $502,000 (source: Steve Nehl/The Oregonian seen in Jason Quick’s The Oregonian/OregonLive). It was then called the Multnomah Civic Stadium, but went through many name changes, and is now known as Providence Park.

There were many other events it hosted, until sometime in the 1960s, cricket matches and greyhound racing were played at the venue. It was also once used for college football games and also hosted the Portland Rose Festival, which is a civic festival that takes place in the city every June.

What it might be most known for before being known as a soccer stadium was hosting the Portland Beavers. They played what is now called Providence Park from 1956-2010, until unfortunately the team relocated to Lake Elsinore, California for the 2011 in the Triple-A affiliate league of Major League Baseball.

Significance of Providence Park with Soccer and What It Means for Portland

With soccer, Providence Park hosted many memorable events. For example, it hosted the Soccer 77 where the New York Cosmos was victorious over the Seattle Sounders. It also hosted FIFA Women’s World Cup games in both 1999 and 2003. Others include the 2014 MLS All-Star Game, 2014 MLS All-Star Game, 2019 NWSL Championship game, and the 2021 MLS Cup Final. It was also home to all the iterations of the Portland Timbers, including the second-tier division team that existed until 2010.

Portland lost both the 2019 NWSL Championship game and the 2021 MLS Cup Final in Portland. However, the Timbers won the one-off MLS is Back Tournament that took place back in 2020 and also the 2015 MLS Cup on the road. This is what Kerry Tymchuk, Executive Director of the Oregon Historical Society, said about the stadium in Portland (source: Noah Davis on June 18, 2015 for the Portland Timbers):

“For almost 90 years, Providence Park has been home to some of the most iconic moments in Oregon sports history. It also ranks with such classic venues as Wrigley Field and Fenway Park as a stadium that has stood the test of time and that is uniquely part and parcel of the city in which it resides,” Kerry Tymchuk, executive director of the Oregon Historical Society, says. “Portland is a city that prides itself on its uniqueness. While many major cities have chosen to replace historic sports stadiums with modern domes or complexes, Portland has chosen to retain much of the original architecture and charm of one of architect A.E. Doyle’s most beloved creations.”

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Attendance for the Portland Timbers

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The Portland Timbers ranks among the top-half of teams at Providence Park. Last year, they were ninth in MLS attendance with an average attendance of 23,103 fans per game and in 2022, and they were sixth in MLS attendance with an average attendance of 23,841 fans per game.

Also, there is a lot to enjoy at Providence Park, as it is considered as the “best American soccer stadium experience,” (source: Celine Jerly of Event Parking). This along with the strong attendances shown by their NWSL team, the Portland Thorns, at Providence Park, shows why people are interested in watching their team and why it is known as a soccer city.

The Timbers home opener is on February 24, where they will face the Colorado Rapids at Providence Park. That game will be on at 10:30 PM ET. Ironically, the Timbers first-ever game in MLS was a 3-1 loss to the Rapids at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on March 19, 2011. Their first-ever win at Providence Park in MLS play was a 4-2 win against the Chicago Fire FC at the then called Jeld-Wen Field (now known as Providence Park).

 

Photo Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports of a Portland Timbers FC Logo Headshot, on May 14, 2022.

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