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Thorns bolster claim to Soccer City, USA, break NWSL attendance record

More than 19,000 turned out to see the Thorns play the Houston Dash on national television.

Craig Mitchelldyer

By now, we're used to seeing big crowds for Portland soccer matches. Since the Portland Timbers entered MLS in 2011, they've sold out every match they've played. The Thorns -- their sister club in the NWSL -- has been drawing solid numbers as well, averaging about 13,000 per game during their two seasons.

With a national TV audience tuning in for a game that was broadcast on ESPN2 and national media already in town to cover Wednesday's MLS All-Star Game, Thorns fans took it to another level.

Now, that's not remotely close to being the biggest announced crowd to ever watch a professional women's soccer match in North American history. The Washington Freedom averaged more than 14,000 during the inaugural year of the WUSA in 2001 and had several huge crowds. But that and other well-attended women's soccer matches were often helped by being part of double-headers with men's teams.

This game, as well as every other Thorns match, is remarkable in part because it was a stand-alone match. Sure, the Timbers share front-office staff and they are both operated by Merritt Paulson, but fans are packing Providence Park just to see the Thorns, not see them serve as the opening act for the guys.

Especially on nights like this, it's not hard to see why Portland calls itself Soccer City, USA.

Oh, and the Thorns beat the Houston Dash 1-0.