NWSL Portland Thorns Pacing League In Attendance; Timbers Relationship Crucial
The Portland Thorns are "not merely leading the National Women's Soccer League in attendance less than 10 games into its inaugural season, but blowing away the next closest competition by three times in average per game and more than twice in total attendance," according to Melissa Isaacson of ESPNW.com. Thorns Owner Merritt Paulson, who also owns the MLS Timbers, said, "Portland just loves soccer and the Thorns benefitted exponentially from having the organization that launched it already doing soccer and doing it well." He added, "The league came together extremely late and a lot of teams didn't have the time for advance ticket sales or marketing, and didn't have the organizational infrastructure around the team. We had all that, so it was definitely an easier start." The Timbers have "more than 15,000 season-ticket holders, their waiting list at more than 8,000, and Paulson's team relied heavily on that in order to develop a fan base for the Thorns, which counts approximately half of the Timbers' season-ticket holders as their own." Paulson is the "only MLS team owner who agreed to take on a women's team." USSF President Sunil Gulati said, "I did want Portland and Merritt in the league. He's symbolic of a new generation of young sports entrepreneurs." NWSL Exec Dir Cheryl Bailey said of the Thorns, "We thought they would be good, maybe 5, 6,000. But they're getting over (13,000) each week and more. Clearly, he stepped up to the plate and has had an extreme amount of success." The Thorns have "drawn an average of 13,118 fans in four matches at JELD-WEN Field with the next closest, FC Kansas City, averaging 4,849, also in the first four games" (ESPNW.com, 6/6).