TUKWILA, Wash. — It’s hard to deny that the rivalry between the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers doesn’t quite feel as big as it once did. That will happen when you meet an average of four times per year — as they did from 2012-2018 — and as often as five times in a season, which happened as recently as last season.
And while the the national media seems to have turned the bulk of its attention to more burgeoning rivalries, like El Tráfico between the LA Galaxy and LAFC, Seattle-Portland remains arguably the country’s best. Not only did these teams just meet in one of the best playoff series in MLS history last year, but they once again promise to be Western Conference contenders this year.
Adding just a bit of bite to today’s matchup, the Sounders can clinch the Cascadia Cup with a victory.
“That’s what we should be focused on — we can win a trophy,” Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei said on Friday. “Yes, it’s a trophy for the fans, but ultimately you’re here to win things and that’s what we should be focused on. It’s an opportunity you don’t get too many times a year — three, four times max — this is that opportunity and we should be ready for it.”
If the Sounders win, it would be the sixth time they’ve held the Cascadia Cup and the fourth time during the MLS era. The Whitecaps currently have the all-time Cascadia Cup lead with six titles, including three in the MLS era.
Whatever this rivalry may lack in new car smell, it makes up for it with the scent of well worn leather. No soccer rivalry in North America can match this one’s history, dating back to 1975 when the two teams were in the NASL and stretching its lineage through four different leagues.
A few more things that illustrate this rivalry’s greatness:
- Tonight’s attendance is expected to top 50,000. While that’s a significant decline from the rivalry’s heyday when Sounders home games were topping 60,000 — which happened every year from 2012-2015 — that’s still almost certainly more than El Tráfico will draw in both games combined. Friday’s edition had just a bit more than 27,000 fans in attendance and Banc of California Stadium’s capacity is just 22,000.
- The Sounders and Timbers have faced off a total of 31 times since 2011, the year Portland joined MLS. Seattle has a slight 13-12-6 advantage overall, but they’re 7-1-3 at home during regular-season play. The last time these teams met in MLS play, the Timbers won in penalties after the Sounders twice came from behind to force extra time and then penalties.
- This year marks the first time since 2011 that the Sounders and Timbers have only been scheduled to play twice in regular-season play and just the second time since the regional trophy started being awarded in 2004 that the three Cascadia teams have played a perfectly balanced home-and-home schedule. (Note: Although the official 2007 Cascadia Cup standings only counted four games, the Sounders played the Timbers three times and the Whitecaps four times in USL regular-season play.)
- This match annually features some of the best tifo in North America. Make sure you’re in your seats early.