I'm not a soccer fan.
I played some low level high school soccer but could never get into it as a supporter. I've been to matches at Providence Park, both Timbers and Thorns, I've tried. And while the event of going to a match is fun (you should go!), I just don't find it appealing as a spectator sport. Yes, I understand the game and the strategy, it's just not for me. I prefer basketball and football and there are lots of people on both sides of the soccer debate fence. None of that is relevant here.
Portland is Soccer City, USA. Has been and always will be, simply because it is ingrained in the culture of this city.
Let's all just agree that Portland and Seattle are the only cities up for consideration here. Kansas City has a nice pro soccer thing going (1 MLS and 2 NWSL titles) but it's not on the same wide-spread level as here in the northwest. A recent story handed the title over to over to Seattle but I think the scope was far too narrow.
Here are the top five reasons Portland is Soccer City, USA and Seattle isn't:
1. Timber's Army (PORTLAND) - You may not love them, but you can't deny that the Timber's Army is the top supporter group in the MLS. Really, don't even try.
2. Championships (PORTLAND) - Scoreboard check. Both the Timbers and the Thorns have won titles in their respective leagues and don't forget two NCAA National Championships for the University of Portland Women's Soccer Team.
3. Collegiate Soccer (PORTLAND) - Unless you're in North Carolina (or maybe South Bend, Indiana), you won't find a community more supportive of collegiate soccer than Portland. The Pilots have a storied tradition, especially on the women's side and two National Championships.
4. NWSL (PORTLAND) - It's not even close. The Thorns draw 3-5x the number of fans vs. the Reign. Oh, and there's that whole NWSL Championship thing again too (no, Shields don't count). Do not discount the relevance and importance of women's soccer in this discussion.
5. MLS Attendance & Season Tickets (TIE or SLIGHT EDGE SEATTLE) - Sure, Seattle leads the way in MLS attendance (44,247 per game for 2015) thanks in part to their home stadium at CenturyLink Field which has 68,000 fixed seats. But let's not forget that the population of the Seattle Metro area is about 1.5x that of the Portland Metro area. On average, Seattle fills its stadium about 65% "full" for a Sounders home game. The Timbers do not have a the luxury of an NFL sized stadium, but fill Providence Park at about 96% capacity based on average numbers (attendance figures here, the capacity is 22,000).
Would Portland fill a 68,000 seat stadium for an MLS soccer game? No, but it would be on par with Seattle's numbers easily. Especially considering the Timbers have a season ticket holder wait list that is well north of 10,000 people. Add that to the 21k average attendance and you're immediately in the 31-34k range without factoring in non-season ticket holders who would attend games if tickets were easier to get. Compare that to the reduced population size and you can easily argue Portland and Seattle would be even on attendance figures if the stadium situations were equal.
When you look at the whole picture: MLS, NWSL, College, Supporters, Championship, Ticket Sales & Attendance (relative to population sizes), and importance to the city... it's pretty obvious.
Portland is Soccer City, USA.