Professional soccer teams representing Seattle and Portland have met 74 times in three leagues over the past 36 years.
However, no match has been more anticipated than the first Sounders-Timbers meeting in Major League Soccer, which will take place at 8 p.m. Saturday at sold out Qwest Field and before an ESPN2 audience.
“I think it’s great for the league,” Sounders general manager Adrian Hanauer said. “It’s pressure on the teams, the players, which I think is good for our league. It’s just a great advertisement again for the league to have the national spotlight, and sold-out stadiums and intense rivalries. It hopefully gets eyeballs watching and butts in seats in our market and in others.”
Seattle leads Portland 39-27-8 in a rivalry began on May 2, 1975, in the North American Soccer League. It continued in the Western Soccer League and then in the United Soccer Leagues first division.
The rivalry even survived Seattle’s jump to MLS two seasons ahead of Portland, as the clubs met in the U.S. Open Cup each of those seasons – with the Sounders advancing each time.
The 2009 meeting in Portland was Seattle coach Sigi Schmid’s first exposure to the Northwest rivalry.
“I know in the Open Cup that we’ve played down there the games definitely had a lot of fire, a lot of intensity,” Schmid said. “You could tell the fans were very competitive with each other. Portland has gotten off to a great start and off to a great start at home.”
The typical 36,000-plus fans will fill the usual soccer configuration of Qwest Field. The Sounders, Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps agreed to increase the number of tickets available to visiting fans from 150 to 500 for games involving the Northwest rivals. However, the Sounders decided against opening additional sections of the stadium.
Seattle (3-3-4) and Portland (4-3-1) won’t meet in the Open Cup this season, as the Timbers were eliminated by the San Jose Earthquakes, 1-0, in a play-in game last week.
The Sounders will make their return trip to Portland on July 10. And each team also will play home and away games against the Whitecaps, who also ascended to MLS this season. The round-robin competition among the three Northwest sides will determine the winner of the Cascadia Cup.