Timbers Soccer History
The world’s game of soccer formally took ground in Portland in the 1970s with the inception of a professional franchise, the Portland Timbers.
The Timbers’ history begins in the spring of 1975, as an expansion club in the original North American Soccer League (NASL). The club’s inaugural NASL season featured home crowds of 20,000 fans and a surprising run that led the Timbers to Soccer Bowl ’75, playing for the NASL title. The successes of that first season generated a highly supportive and passionate fan base which has inspired a love for the game and helped Portland earn the moniker, “Soccer City USA.”
The original Timbers produced three playoff seasons (1975, 1978 and 1981). As a member of the NASL, the Timbers entertained fans against some of the era’s greatest players, including Pele and Franz Beckenbauer. In fact, Pele officially played his last professional soccer match in Portland at Civic Stadium at the end of the 1977 season. While a part of the NASL, the city of Portland became the home for several beloved Timbers players: Clive Charles, John Bain, Mick Hoban and Bernie Fagan helped develop the game in Rose City, first-hand.
Under the ownership of local businessman Art Dixon, the Timbers took life for two seasons from 1989-90 in the Western Soccer League (a league that would ultimately transform into the United Soccer Leagues First Division starting in 1997). The Timbers took the league by storm in 1989, posting an 11-5 record and reaching the semifinals. The squad featured former NASL midfielder John Bain as a player/coach as well as University of Portland standouts Kasey Keller and Scott Benedetti. All three were WSL All-Stars and Keller garnered the league’s MVP honors. Despite all-league efforts from Bain and Benedetti in 1990, the Timbers finished 10-10 and following the season would once again fade from the sport landscape in the Rose City.
With the dawn of a new millennium, the Timbers reclaimed the hearts of area soccer fans in 2001 as a member of United Soccer Leagues and quickly established themselves among the elite clubs. In 10 seasons in U.S. soccer’s second tier, the Timbers posted eight winning seasons and advanced to the playoffs seven times. The Timbers captured the USL First Division Commissioner’s Cup as the regular-season champion in 2004 and 2009.
Also in 2009, the Timbers assembled a 24-game unbeaten streak – not only a record in the USL, but one of the longest unbeaten streaks in U.S. soccer history. The Timbers have earned 18 all-league selections and three coach of the year awards.
Beginning in 2011, a new era began as the Timbers entered Major League Soccer. Supporters from the original NASL days now joined with a new generation of fans to create one of the best supported clubs in North America. In 2015, the the Providence Park faithful saw one of the best MLS playoff games ever – the famous “Double Post” penalty kick shootout win over Sporting Kansas City – on the Timbers’ journey to winning the club’s first-ever MLS Cup. In 2018, Portland were the Western Conference Champions and then in a pandemic-affected 2020 season, the Timbers came out victors in the MLS is Back Tournament.
In the Rose City, Civic Stadium – having most recently gone through a glittering expansion in 2019 and now known as Providence Park – has grown to be one of the best soccer environments in the world playing host to a memorable U.S. Men’s National Team win in the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup to witnessing the 2014 MLS All-Star Game which ended as a 2-1 victory for MLS over German Bundesliga giants FC Bayern Munchen.
In the early days of the NASL club, the Timbers started a unique and beloved game-day tradition that continues to this day – the cutting of the “log slab.” After each goal scored at home by the Timbers, a round is cut from the victory log behind the north goal. Amidst a cloud of sawdust and the roar of a chainsaw, fans celebrate. This time-honored tradition has helped make Timbers matches a one-of-a-kind soccer experience in the United States.
Spanning multiple generations, the Timbers have been a proud part of the Portland sports landscape and are supported by fans second-to-none.