Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers: The Underappreciated Rivalry

The Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers rivalry could be exactly what MLS needs to push the sport to the forefront.

Updated: May 21, 2017 • 8:52 PM ET

Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers matches rarely lack excitement.

Ah yes, the rivalry game. The one game, the one match that every die-hard fan looks forward to year-in-and-year-out. The marquee matchup between two bitter foes, filled with fans’ passion and the tenacity of two teams colliding in fierce competition.


Apart from winning the championship, is there any better feeling than standing triumphantly over one’s most hated foe? Simultaneously, is there any greater shame than wallowing in the agony of defeat at the hands of one’s most hated adversary?


We all know the great rivalries in American sports: Auburn vs. Alabama in the Iron Bowl, North Carolina vs. Duke in college basketball, Michigan vs. Ohio State, Red Sox vs. Yankees and...Sounders vs. Timbers?


Wait, who is that last one?


Yep, that’s right. Arguably one of the greatest rivalries in American sports takes place in the great Pacific Northwest between two illustrious soccer franchises.


Arguably, the Sounders/Timbers rivalry is probably the most underappreciated in American sports. It has everything a great rivalry needs: tenacity, tens of thousands of screaming fans deafening the stadium and most importantly, the sheer burning hatred that fills both players and fans alike. Yes, the Sounders/Timbers rivalry has all that in spades.


So, why don’t more Americans know about it? How is it that one of the biggest rivalries in American sports goes largely unnoticed?


Well, there’s a couple reasons.


The most respected rivalries are held by those teams that have a long history of success. For instance, the rivalry between Michigan and Ohio State is one of the most revered in all of sports because both are storied programs within college football. Both Michigan and Ohio State have numerous titles and championships to their name and continue to perform at the highest level year-in-and-year-out. So, when you have two of the top teams in the nation playing against one another, that’s exciting. When you have two of the top teams in the nation playing against one another with such burning hatred that they’re willing to break out into full on fights, well that’s exhilarating.


The other major downside is that the Sounders/Timbers rivalry is (relatively speaking) new. Though the official Sounders/Timbers rivalry dates back more than four decades, for the most part of their shared history, the two clubs previously competed in the minor leagues. That was until the Sounders joined MLS in 2009 and Timbers followed in 2011. In essence, that means the rivalry, at the highest professional level, is only six years old.


And probably the rivalry’s biggest downfall is that both teams play in MLS. Despite MLS being the third-most attended professional league in the United States and setting attendance records for three years straight, the league doesn’t get the same attention in the mainstream media as the other professional leagues.


MLS has broadcasting and streaming deals with TNT, FOX and ESPN, yet it’s seldom talked about on major networks. ESPN does have ESPNFC, but they primarily talk about other major leagues around the world outside of MLS. So is it any wonder that the largest rivalry in North American soccer goes largely unnoticed?


The reality is, soccer is growing in the United States, and as it does, so too does MLS. And today, the greatest soccer rivalry in North America (yeah, that’s right La Liga MX, I said it) is played in the Pacific Northwest.


The rivalry between Seattle and Portland is exactly the type of atmosphere needed to popularize the sport. Let fans and non-fans alike see just how intense the matchup between Portland and Seattle is.


Talk about it. Show it to the country and let everyone know just how passionate the game of soccer is played and watched here in America. Let them know that it’s not only football that can draw in fans upwards of 66,000!


It’s time for the U.S.’s mainstream media to give MLS the attention it has rightfully earned.

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