U.S. Soccer: All Roads to Soccer Lead Through the Pacific Northwest

Joe OneillCorrespondent IIJune 29, 2011

Landon Donovan might be happier playing the PNW.
Landon Donovan might be happier playing the PNW.Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

It only took the executives at MLS 12 years to figure out that the Pacific Northwest is the hotbed, and future, of soccer in America.

Yes, 2009 was when the revitalized Seattle Sounders joined the league to sold-out stadiums and rabid fans. Rather than watching thousands of empty seats in Chicago or New England, Qwest Field was continually sold out and the fans, well, were fanatical about their team.

In 2011, the Portland Timbers upped the ante by selling out every game of their inaugural 2011 season. Although not the size of Qwest Field, at 18,000 plus, Jeld-Wen field is still plenty big for the MLS.

The Timbers fans are even more rabid, and more obsessed, than their counterparts up the I-5. Watch one of the Timbers' games on TV and you would swear you were watching Liverpool in Anfield. The Timbers are, without a doubt, the biggest thing in Portland right now. How many other US cities can say that about their soccer team?

Also in 2011, the Vancouver Whitecaps joined MLS to sold-out stadiums. Yes, Canadians are by their nature more congenial, but their sold-out games have generated a great buzz in Vancouver, B.C.

The fact is that the Seattle-Portland rivalry is the best in the MLS—by a very, very wide margin.

The heartbeat of English soccer runs through Liverpool and Manchester—the American game runs through Portland and Seattle.

It's amazing that it took the so-called "experts" to figure out that the Pacific Northwest is the best place for soccer in America. If they would have looked at the old Sounders-Timbers-Whitecaps rivalries from the NASL in the 1970s and 1980s, they would have understood the deep roots of the game in the land of the evergreens.

I don't know why soccer is so massive in the PNW. Maybe it's the weather. Perhaps this much rain makes people want to kick something. Maybe it's the fact that there's much less competition from other sports. We don't have the baseball tradition in the East Coast or the obsession with American football in the Midwest and South.

Yes, they want soccer to be massive on the East Coast and in southern California. They want those television markets in Los Angeles and New York. The two soccer figureheads in the MLS, David Beckham and Thierry Henry, both play in Los Angeles and New York, respectively.

Heck, most people in the United States probably can't even find Oregon on a map, much less Canada.

The US soccer federation still hasn't learned from MLS mistakes. How many US soccer tournament games have been scheduled in the Pacific Northwest in the past few years?

That would be zero.

Apparently the higher ups would rather see a half-empty stadium at Ford Field in Detroit than a packed, crazy house at Jeld-Wen.

Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!

Wasn't it wonderful watching the US and Mexico play to a packed house in the Rose Bowl? Oh, that's right, a good 80 percent of the fans were rooting for Mexico. Oops.

That wouldn't happen at Qwest. You'd get a packed house rooting for the red, white and blue. No doubt.

Heck, they should have just scheduled the game in Mexico City.

It's embarrassing watching our home country being drowned out by visiting fans—even if those fans are from our neighbor down south.

Why is this so hard to figure out? All the energy in the MLS right now is coming from the Northwest. Portland, Seattle and Vancouver have ignited a fire that, quite frankly, the league has been waiting for since its inception.

It's not just the MLS—the amateur soccer in the PNW is, without a doubt, the best in the country. Every town and city has competitive and traveling teams. Dozens of soccer camps and clinics are held every summer.

Nike and Adidas both call Oregon their home.

The University of Portland, University of Washington and University of Oregon are all very good with the respective soccer programs.

Figure it out.