PORTLAND, Ore. - During the Portland Timbers' nationally televised match 2-2 draw with the LA Galaxy last Sunday, Timbers.com caught up with esteemed Sports Illustrated and FOX Sports journalist Grant Wahl. Wahl, author of the 2009 book, The Beckham Experiment:How the World's Most Famous Athlete Tried to Conquer America, has become a constant voice on MLS, World Cup, women's soccer, and more.
You've been to Portland before but this was your first Portland Timbers match at Providence Park. First impressions?
It's fantastic. You can see as many games as you want on television -- it looks great on TV -- but until you're in the stadium for a Timbers game, you don't quite know what it's like. I've been here for U.S. [National Team] games, I've been here for Thorns and for the MLS All-Star Game, but to see the Timbers Army in full force is something pretty unique to MLS.
What is it that makes Portland special as Soccer City, USA?
Well, there's a lot of history that was here long before MLS. That includes USL. That includes NASL. That includes the kind of culture that only comes from the passage of time. People know their soccer here and they passed on a lot of pretty great traditions when it comes to supporting this team -- in intensity, in numbers -- that you hope to see happen in other MLS cities. With some it's starting to happen; with others, there's a little way to go.
What effect will the Women's World Cup have on the NWSL and on women's soccer in America?
I like the fact that there's a league that is in place to be there when maybe some new fans get created this summer with the World Cup and that happens with every World Cup, especially if the U.S. team goes really deep. It's not a guarantee of viability in every city in the league. Certainly, Portland's far ahead of the other cities in the NWSL. But I'd certainly like to see that league become something that is as solid as MLS is, in the sense of it's not going to go anywhere. We know that MLS isn't going anywhere and we still have yet to see a women's league establish itself in quite the same way.
And what should we expect from the U.S. Women?
I'm not as pessimistic as some fans or pundits. I don't mean to say, "Oh, they won Algarve Cup, they're going to win the World Cup now." But I think they have the talent to win the World Cup. I think we've seen over the years, this U.S. team doesn't always play the prettiest soccer, but they do have some special things going on that I think give them a pretty good chance of winning a World Cup.