March 20th, 2009 | by BETH SLOVIC News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Sports, City Hall, Business

The Big Announcement: Major League Soccer to Hit Portland in 2011

Merritt Paulson

The Hilton Hotel turned into a Delta Kappa Epsilon frat house Friday morning as officials from Major League Soccer announced what already had been widely reported -- that they'd decided to award a new Portland franchise to Merritt Paulson, following last week's 3-2 vote by City Hall to help pay for stadium costs.

Following the official announcement (and notwithstanding the $15 million hole in the financing plan), Commissioner Randy Leonard -- wearing a soccer scarf emblazoned with the words "People's Republic of Portland" plus several other scarves -- introduced Mayor Sam Adams at the 10 a.m. press conference. But, first, he broke out in song:
Portland boys we are here - Wo ho, Wo ho
Portland boys we are here - Wo ho, Wo ho
Portland boys we are here

Never, it seems, has a chant at a political rally more clearly and concisely summed up a scene, which was crowded with several hundred Timbers Army fans. (There were female fans in attendance, of course. It's just that most of them were under 10 and appeared to have been dragged to the Hilton by their Timbers Army dads.) Unfortunately, Leonard stopped before getting to the choicest lyrics: "Hug your women and drink your beer. Wo ho, Wo ho, ho."

Moving on to the business at hand, Leonard used his platform to credit Adams for the mayor's leadership in bringing major-league soccer to Portland. That might have been the most interesting aspect of the event from a political perspective since Leonard's kind words came two months after Leonard first broke with the mayor in the wake of Beau-gate. "If Sam Adams had not been mayor, we would not be here," Leonard said.

When Adams finally spoke, he regurgitated a couple of talking points about the "international language" of soccer and how Portland will enter the world stage because of fútbol. He ribbed the mayors of Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., and spoke briefly of the economic impact of the new deal on Portland. "This is a smart investment in Portland's future," Adams said.

Mike Golub was standing at the back of the crowd, with members of the press, but would not comment on speculation he may be the Timbers' new general manager.

Season tickets are already available online for when play begins in 2011.
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