Wednesday, May 02, 2007

MLS to Portland or Seattle via California

Back in March MLS Commissioner Don Garber made headlines when he visited Portland and Seattle to explore the possibility of granting one of them an expansion team. At the time Garber was silent on the names of possible investors. However, the lead investor has finally stepped forward.

Michael Keston, a California real estate developer has announced that he has the exclusive rights to discuss with MLS the possibility of bringing an expansion team to one of the two cities.

Keston has yet to decide which city he will put forward, however it does seem that Portland is where he would prefer to be.

"We very much would like to be in Portland," he said. "We think the people and atmosphere are great and it's a place we could very happily be."

The problem is MLS wants the team to be ready to play within two years and a stadium solution might not be ready within that time.

If a team moved to Portland, they would probably play at PGE Park, which is currently the home of USL first division side the Portland Timbers and Triple A baseball club the Portland Beavers. Although the city would love to have a MLS side, they don't want to hurt their relationship with these two teams to make it happen.

A possible solution to this problem might happen by itself, as the Portland Timbers might not continue if a bigger squad moves into town.

The city, for their part, is willing to make improvements to the stadium (new field, more seating, better locker rooms...), but Keston is also looking at other stadiums in the area.

If Seattle gets the nod, the team would probably head to Qwest Field, home of the Seattle Seahawks (NFL) and Sounders (USL). The idea of playing in a 67,000-seat stadium is a good short-term solution, but at some point they will need to find their own venue.

Keston is working on these issues and hopes to announce which of the two Northwestern cities he has picked within a month. Once he has a city, he will present his plans to MLS headquarters in order to get their final approval.

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