Beginning Premier Development League play in 2009, the Portland Timbers U23 have established themselves as a premier franchise not only in the talented Northwest Division but also across North America.
The franchise became the first undefeated champion in PDL history when it won the title with a 16-0-0 record in 2010. The Timbers U23 have reached the PDL Playoffs five times and are currently in contention to book a spot in the 2017 Western Conference play-in round.
While success has been consistent over the years, a change of scenery was revealed ahead of the 2017 regular season. In February, the Major League Soccer club announced a stronger affiliation with Capital FC Timbers – a member club of the Portland Timbers Alliance, which provides elite local clubs resources to help the development of youth players. As part of the new partnership, the Timbers U23 would play their matches in Salem, Oregon, during the 2017 regular season.
“With our development focus shifting to our academy program and T2, we felt it was important to put the U23 program in a marketplace that would be both beneficial to the Timbers brand and also our alliance club partner Capital FC Timbers while still providing a place for our Homegrown talent currently in college to develop,” General Manager and President of Soccer for the Portland Timbers Gavin Wilkinson told USLPDL.com. “Our alliance club, Capital Timbers, has been great partners of ours and is an exceptionally well-organized, professional club that was willing to commit the resources necessary to make it a successful venture in a new market, on and off the field.”
The Timbers U23 have helped numerous players move on to the professional level since 2009, including FC Dallas rookies Jacori Hayes and Walker Hume, Ottawa Fury FC forward Tucker Hume and Sporting Kansas City defender Colton Storm. The current team is looking to add to its alumni.
“We feel like the season has gone well from both a results and community support standpoint,” Capital FC Timbers Executive Director Collin Box said. “We didn’t know how the team would be received, so having over 1,100 fans at our last several games has demonstrated the interest and support from our city.
“We also are happy with the team culture, as the players seem to be really enjoying themselves, getting along and developing as the season progresses.”
Led by Head Coach Aaron Lewis, who worked behind the scenes for the Timbers organization during the PDL team’s undefeated season in 2010, the Timbers U23 are unbeaten in nine and have won four consecutive games.
“His knowledge from an administrative standpoint has helped advise all of us as we have started up this year in Salem,” Box said of Lewis.
“We are also very thankful for the support this year from Nick Mansueto, the Timbers Assistant GM. He has opened up resources within the larger Timbers organization to help us start in Salem on the right path.”
Box says having the Timbers U23 team play in Salem has been a wonderful addition to the city, not only because it provides the youth players something to aim for but also because the games serve as fantastic community events.
“We have seen our group of supporters grow with every game,” Box said. “Salem doesn’t have a lot to offer in terms of high-level sporting events, so it’s been fun to watch as the fans have taken some ownership over the group.”
“The Timbers U23 have a strong history of success in PDL,” Wilkinson added, “and it is rewarding to see that tradition carry forward with the club's initial reception and success in Salem during this first season.”