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A matter of trust
by Paul Kennedy, March 15th, 2013 5:38PM
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TAGS:  mls, online, philadelphia union, portland timbers, seattle sounders, soccer business, television, vancouver whitecaps


By Paul Kennedy

The Seattle-Portland match caps MLS's schedule of seven Saturday games during Rivalry Week -- and concludes 10 hours of consecutive coverage on NBC and NBC Sports Network.

(Click here for complete weekend TV schedule.)

Saturday night's Sounders-Timbers match also marks the first game of the year in the Cascadia Cup.

The Cascadia Cup pits MLS's three Northwest clubs -- the Sounders, Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps -- in competition against each other. It isn't MLS's first regional cup but has quickly become the best known as the three clubs have developed strong and passionate support since joining MLS.

But the competition was in the news for other reasons in the offseason -- legal reasons. The league's attempt to trademark "Cascadia Cup" and other regional club cups became a sore point among Cascadia Cup supporter groups.

It's an important test of how MLS handles the delicate balance of protecting its "corporate" interests and nurturing the independent or alternative soccer culture that thrives in the Northwest.

What distinguishes the Cascadia Cup from other regional cup competitions -- and impacts the dispute -- is that it predates the admission of the the three clubs to MLS. All three clubs played in the USL First Division (the old A-League) and their names go back to the original clubs that played in the North American Soccer League in the 1970s and early 1980s.

The Cascadia Cup dispute comes down to a matter of trust.

Will MLS trust the Cascadia Cup Council -- Seattle's Emerald City Supporters, Portland's Timbers Army and Vancouver's Southsiders -- to protect the cup's name from being exploited by parties that might be unaffiliated with the league or the three teams?

Will the Cascadia Cup Council trust MLS to protect the cup's name from being exploited for its own reasons or that of the three teams?

The parties -- in particular the bevy of attorneys within their ranks -- have been talking.

On the opening weekend of the 2013 season, MLS Commissioner Don Garber attended matches in Vancouver and Seattle, where he addressed the issue with local media. He admitted the process was not handled well by the league but also added that the intellectual law issues involved in the matter were complicated.

Garber won't say the league wouldn't pursue its trademark claim -- he did admit the trademark belonged to the Cascadia Cup Council -- but he did say, "What we’re trying to do is have a conversation to reach an agreement so that we don’t have to do that."

He was confident that MLS will "reach an agreement that’ll make sense for the Cascadia Cup Council, for the fans, for the league and our clubs."

MITTS JOINS UNION BROADCASTS. Three-time Olympic gold-medalist Heather Mitts, who announced this week her retirement from soccer, has joined the Philadelphia Union as a pre-game and sideline reporter for its locally produced television broadcasts as well as a soccer ambassador for the club. Her first game will be Saturday's match against the New England Revolution on The Comcast Network at 5:00 p.m. ET.

OVERLAP, THE IPAD MAGAZINE APP. On his "AMA" Q&A at Reddit, MLS chief marketing officer Howard Handler said Thursday afternoon the league was "moments away" from introducing Overlap, an iPad magazine app produced by George Quraishi (who launched Howler Magazine) in conjunction with MLS Digital.

MEDIA NOTES. Jeff Bradley has joined as a senior writer. He worked as the MetroStars' first media director and later covered soccer for ESPN The Magazine. Since 2011, he's been a baseball columnist and baseball beat reporter for the Newark Star-Ledger.

-- Seattle Sounders beat writer Joshua Mayers, who was hired by the Seattle Times as a three-year resident in 2010, will be staying on as a full-time reporter.
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