Timbers Notebook: 2010 to offer similar, but different feel

On the field, the Timbers’ 2010 season will feel the same, and in some ways look the same, as in seasons past. The Timbers will play in a league with familiar foes, such as Puerto Rico, Montreal, Rochester and rival Vancouver, but the new year sees changes made to U.S. Soccer’s Division 2.
 
On Thursday, the U.S. Soccer Federation, United Soccer Leagues (USL) and the North American Soccer League (NASL) came to an agreement on the formation and operation of a Division 2 professional soccer league for 2010, which is where the Timbers will play for the upcoming campaign. However, fans will be familiar with most of the teams and opposing players this season, as the Timbers have competed in U.S. Soccer's Division 2, which sits one tier below Major League Soccer, since returning in 2001. 
 
Thursday's agreement brings some changes to Division 2 - primarily to the league's structure. U.S. Soccer will oversee the revised Division 2 league in 2010, and the league will consist of two six-team conferences – the USL Conference and the NASL Conference. Overall, Division 2 sees an increase to 12 clubs for the 2010 season.
 
The USL Conference will include teams from Austin, Minnesota, Portland, Puerto Rico, Rochester and Tampa Bay. The NASL Conference will consist of teams from Baltimore, Carolina, Miami, Montreal, St. Louis and Vancouver.
 
New teams in the fold for 2010: Tampa Bay, who was announced early last season as a 2010 expansion club; Baltimore, who played in the USL Second Division in 2009; and a new St. Louis club.
 
U.S. Soccer will announce soon details of the new league, including league rules, a match schedule, television rights and other important operational matters.