Seattle and Portland launch USL PRO second teams

[MLS SPOTLIGHT] The Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers became the second and third MLS clubs to formally announce plans to join the LA Galaxy in entering a pro team in USL PRO. Sounders FC 2 -- or S2 -- and Timbers 2 -- T2 -- will both begin play in 2015. S2 will be partly owned by the fan-owned Sounders Community Trust, while the Timbers will launch a program to allow founding members -- the first 1,975 season-ticket holders -- to have a say in club affairs.

Sounders 2 will be based at Starfire Stadium in Tukwila, Washington, where the Sounders train and play their U.S. Open Cup matches. Timbers 2 will play its home games at Merlo Field on the campus of the University of Portland and train at the club’s adidas Timbers Training Center in Beaverton, Ore.

The primary purpose of Sounders FC 2 is development -- creating a consistent and competitive pro environment for promising Academy players and first-team players needing playing time -- but it will also extend the club's access to supporters and increase opportunities to be involved with the organization. Sounders Community Trust will hold a 20-percent interest in the second team. Its general manger will be Andrew Opatkiewicz.

“We are proud to announce the formation of S2 and complete the player development program that starts with our academy and ends with the Sounders FC first team,” said Sounders co-owner and general manager Adrian Hanauer. “The partnership with the Sounders Community Trust supports the club’s vision for a fan-involved sports organization that deeply values the input and perspective of its supporters.”

The Timbers' 1975 Trust will give fans the chance to be a T2 founding member and take part in a variety of team decisions and activities, such as choosing the team jersey on match day and helping choose the food and beverage options available at home games, among other things.

“I believe that MLS clubs with their own USL PRO teams in-market will have a competitive advantage on a number of levels,” said Merritt Paulson, owner/CEO of the Timbers. “This is a big investment for us and signifies our commitment to winning.”

The Montreal Impact has also announced plans to operate a team -- Montreal FC -- in USL PRO. Real Salt Lake has announced the name of its USL PRO -- Real Monarchs -- but has not formally announced plans to join the league. It wants to build a 8,000-seat facility of its own at the Utah State Fairpark. The Vancouver Whitecaps had announced plans to join USL PRO, but plans to locate the team in New Westminster were derailed when its city council rejected plans to convert Queen's Park Stadium, a local baseball stadium, into a soccer stadium.

USL PRO featured 14 teams, including LA Galaxy II, in 2014. Galaxy II reached the semifinals, falling to eventual champion Sacramento.

New franchises already announced for 2015 in Austin Aztex (moving up from the PDL), Charlotte Independence (replacing the Charlotte Eagles), Colorado Springs Switchbacks, Louisville City (replacing Orlando City), St. Louis FC and Tulsa Roughnecks.

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