Portland lands record US$40 million MLS franchise

Portland has been named as the 18th Major League Soccer (MLS) team after MLS chief Don Garber agreed a US$40 million franchise fee with Portland native Merritt Paulson. Paulson, who was previously in charge of marketing and business development for the NBA, also owns the city's minor league baseball team. His father, Henry 'Hank' Paulson, was Secretary of the Treasury under President George W. Bush, and will have a minority stake in the team.

Portland has been named as the 18th Major League Soccer (MLS) team after securing a franchise that will see it join the league in 2012. MLS commissioner Don Garber has agreed a deal with Portland native Merritt Paulson which is believed to value the franchise at US$40 million.

Paulson, who was previously in charge of marketing and business development for the National Basketball Association, also owns the city's minor league baseball team. His father, Henry 'Hank' Paulson, was Secretary of the Treasury under President George W. Bush, and will have a minority stake in the team.

"Today is a historic day for Soccer City, USA, and it is a big win for our economy, our community and for soccer fans everywhere," Paulson said. "We are in a position to make this announcement today because of our incredible fans and strong leadership from city leaders. Not only does this bring Major League Soccer to Portland, but it creates hundreds of jobs, protects taxpayers from risk and shines a positive national and international spotlight on Portland and the state of Oregon."

The Portland Timbers will have an immediate local rivalry with Seattle Sounders, the last team to join the MLS. The Sounders made their MLS debut earlier this month, beating the New York Red Bulls, last year's championship runners-up, 3-0. More than 32,000 fans attended the match.

Portland will play games at PGE Park, now home of the Portland Beavers, Paulson's minor league baseball team. Earlier this month the city approved plans to build a new stadium for the Beavers.

A clearly delighted Garber said: "A city with such a storied soccer tradition deserves an MLS team, and we are proud to have Portland join the top level of professional soccer in our region. Merritt Paulson and his family provide a vibrant and innovative ownership group that truly loves the world's game and we believe PGE Park will provide a world-class soccer environment for soccer fans."