Portland beats out Ottawa for MLS franchise
Senators' owner Eugene Melnyk lost bid for team in Canada's capital
Portland was awarded the 18th Major League Soccer franchise on Friday, beating out bids from Ottawa and St. Louis.
"A city with such a storied soccer tradition deserves an MLS team, and we are proud to have Portland join the top level of professional soccer in our region," MLS commissioner Don Garber said in a statement. "[Owner] Merritt Paulson and his family provide a vibrant and innovative ownership group that truly loves the world's game and we believe PGE Park will provide a world-class soccer environment for soccer fans."
The Portland Timbers played for eight seasons in the North American Soccer League beginning in 1975, the same name of the club that currently plays in the United Soccer League.
MLS has been in expansion mode, adding four teams in the last 18 months. Philadelphia will join the league in 2010, with Vancouver on Wednesday awarded a franchise the following year.
The Seattle Sounders made their MLS debut on Thursday, beating New York Red Bulls 3-0 to kick off the league's regular season.
Ottawa Senators' owner Eugene Melnyk had been hoping to land a team in Canada's capital.
His bid was hurt by ongoing talks with city officials to secure the land and partial funding to build a $110-million, 20,000-seat soccer stadium near the Senators arena in the western Ottawa region of Kanata.
"Absolutely nothing has changed with respect to the level of effort and resources Senators Sports & Entertainment is placing toward our MLS expansion and stadium efforts in Ottawa," he said.
"The main hurdle for us is to gain the city's support for our proposed world-class stadium. We continue to work very closely with council and city staff in securing a favourable decision by its meeting on April 22."
Complicating things with the city is a group led by Jeff Hunt, owner of the Ontario Hockey League's Ottawa 67's, which has been granted a conditional Canadian Football League franchise. That group is also looking for the city's approval to redevelop Lansdowne Park in the downtown area.
Ottawa city council has said it will approve money for either a soccer facility, a football stadium, or neither.
Earlier in the week, MLS commissioner Don Garber said that while Ottawa wasn't likely to be the league's 18th franchise, there was no reason why it "can't be either the 19th or the 20th."
Montreal and Atlanta were among the cities involved in preliminary bidding which didn't make it to the final stages.