'Caps salute Portland on joining MLS

Vancouver Whitecaps FC wish to congratulate Portland Timbers on being awarded the 18th franchise in Major League Soccer. Coming two days after Vancouver was awarded the 17th team in MLS, commissioner Don Garber formally announced that an agreement had been reached with Timbers owner Merritt Paulson, as North America's top-flight professional league completed its latest round of expansion. Portland and Vancouver will both begin play in MLS in 2011. "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," Garber said in Friday's MLS press release. "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." Like their USL First Division club, the new Portland MLS side will be known as the Timbers and will play out of a refurbished 20,000-seat PGE Park in two years time. Like the Whitecaps, the Timbers will continue to compete as a USL-1 outfit in 2009 and 2010. The inclusion of Portland means there will be three Pacific Northwest clubs in MLS come 2011, with Seattle Sounders FC making a successful start to life in the league with a 3-0 home win over New York Red Bulls on Thursday evening. Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver have a long and storied rivalry in professional soccer. From the days of North American Soccer League in the 1970's and 80's, to the more recent Cascadia Cup contests in USL-1, the committed and passionate fan support that has been seen in all three cities over the years has created a soccer culture that is unique to this region of North America. "This vision turned to reality is great not only for the Timbers, but for top-tier professional soccer in the entire region,” Paulson told the Timbers' official website. “One game into its MLS history, Seattle has enjoyed phenomenal success already, and we were very pleased to see Vancouver receive the league’s 17th team on Wednesday. Without a doubt, the Pacific Northwest is a hotbed for professional soccer, and, most importantly, we are excited for our fans." The Whitecaps look forward to battling the Timbers over the next two USL-1 seasons, and are full of anticipation for the MLS chapter of the Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver rivalry to begin in 2011. Five thousand $50 deposits for Vancouver Major League Soccer 2011 season tickets go on sale this Saturday, March 21, at 10:00 a.m. Current Whitecaps ticket holders receive priority purchase rights for 2011 season tickets. For more information on securing a season ticket for 2011, visit vancouverMLS2011.com.