One of the biggest reasons Portland and Vancouver were ever chosen as the next two MLS expansion franchises was the possibility of a real, American soccer derby taking over hearts and minds in the Pacific Northwest.
This rivalry has existed at various levels from the NASL to the USL and the three teams have already established a trophy. The winner of the three-team derby has been earning the right to host the Cascadia Cup since 2004.
There have been other MLS derbies where teams are located as close or closer than these three, but none of them had as long a history as these three and none of them were in situations where season ticket holders could fill such a significant portion of the stadiums.
It's understandable that the supporters of these teams have a lot of emotional investment as this rivalry moves into the big leagues.
Right now, a lot of that energy is being directed at the various front offices who have not articulated their intentions on how they will handle away supporters.
MLS mandates that teams allot 150 tickets to the visiting team's supporters. With Seattle being no more than a three-and-a-half-hour drive from either city and a Amtrak line being devoted to serving those cities, that number will almost certainly be insufficient to meet demand.
In the case of Vancouver and Seattle, who play in gridiron football stadiums and can expand capacity with relative ease, selling extra tickets to away supporters would seem a reasonable expectation. That does not appear to be the case in Portland, who have far less flexibility in their currently under-remodel soccer specific stadium.
All of this has kicked off some serious rumbling among supporters groups, who are making their desire to have extra allotments for visiting teams known.
Dave Clark of Sounder at Heart recently exchanged some emails with John Knox, president of Whitecaps supporters group the Southsiders, in an attempt to get some clarification over what exactly that group is hoping to accomplish.
I think that all three venues are going to be capable of absorbing at least 500 visiting supporters. If that’s the "even steven" benchmark, maybe that’s where we all start.
Dave points out that Portland may be incapable of meeting that benchmark, but that there appears to be some sense among supporters groups that the important thing is for their team to allocate more tickets to the visitors regardless of what the other teams intend to do.
Underlying all of this is a debate about how important away support is to the soccer experience. Outside of college sports, away support is rarely well organized in the United States the way it is in much of the world.
Some fans like the idea of diminishing the cheering power of the visitors by spreading them around the stadium. The downside of that being the increased likelihood for small disagreements to mushroom into full-blown incidents.
However this turns out, a new chapter of MLS is about to begin. Hopefully, MLS will embrace this change, rather than resist it.