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Evolving landscape: MLS clubs assisting women’s soccer makes more sense today

Nov 23, 2012, 3:44 PM EDT

Emulating the match day experience on display at JELD-WEN Field is something high on Orlando's to-o list. Getty Images

As the last incarnation of women’s professional soccer planted seed, the notion gained momentum that MLS should lend a partnering hand.

With those front offices in place (“How handy!”) and with an increasing number of stadiums that needed dates filled, it just seemed to make sense.

Only, it didn’t. Make sense that is. Not for MLS clubs.

Major League Soccer officials were loath to say so publicly, of course. So it was something of a dirty little secret among MLS deciders, but they had little incentive to assist the women’s professional soccer cause.

It’s not that they didn’t want to support women’s professional soccer or didn’t want to see it succeed. Nothing of the sort, in fact.

They simply were not in a position to lend a supportive hand.

Men’s professional soccer dwelled (and mostly still does) in a red ink state. Budgets and staffs were stretched already, never mind adding a whole new team to sell, promote, market, etc.

Besides, their fan bases were sparse enough in some cases; cannibalizing it or diluting it through a greater number of matches seemed a dicey gambit, at best.

(MORE: Eight-team women’s league set to being in 2013) 

That’s why WPS and MLS never linked up – even when it seemed to make so much sense from the outside.

But this is soccer, and this is the United States, which all means these things are in constant evolution. Generally speaking, when it comes to the business of our domestic game, things are moving in a position direction.

So this news that the Portland Timbers don’t just want to be involved with the next incarnation of women’s professional soccer, but that owner Merritt Paulson is eager to get stomping in this new gig, really does represent a significant development.

Here is Paulson’s statement on the matter, from the club:

The Timbers are, and always will be, steadfastly committed to growing the sport of soccer in our region at all levels, and championing a new women’s league and operating a team here in Soccer City, USA, will be an important part of that growth.

“Building on today’s news, soccer fans can look forward to many exciting announcements in the coming weeks and months leading up to the club’s inaugural season, including team name, logo and uniforms; schedule and ticket information; and a host of prominent roster announcements.”

The Timbers are in a different situation, clearly.  Like Seattle and perhaps a couple of other clubs, Instead of looking for newer, better, more effective ways to sell the soccer they already have, the Timbers need more soccer to sell.

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