Portland Timbers prep for first MLS season // (c) 2011 Portland Timbers.
The Portland Timbers and their die-hard fans are preparing for their debut as the 18th Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise in North America.
Road games mark the start of the season, but the team's home opener on April 14 against the Chicago Fire will christen the team's fully renovated stadium, promising to be one of the liveliest in the league.
During the Timbers' inaugural season in 1975, they made it all the way to the North American Soccer League Soccer Bowl. With additional playoff runs in 1978 and 1981, the Timbers not only drew 20,000 fans per game, but also hosted games featuring phenoms of the day like Pele and Franz Beckenbauer. In fact, Pele played his last professional match at Portland's Civic Stadium in 1977.
Located on the MAX light rail line and within a ten-minute walk of many downtown hotels, home games will be a draw for local and regional fans, along with those from rival MLS markets (Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., in particular).