Whether you are just a casual soccer fan or a diehard follower of the sport, Portland is the city for you. Providence Park is home to the Portland Thorns FC and it is one of the largest stadiums of all the teams in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). The Thorns FC were formed in 2012, just a year after the Portland Timbers MLS club. Both the Portland Thorns FC and the Timbers are owned by the same organization and both teams play in Providence Park.
The Portland Thorns FC were one of the eight teams that launched the formation of the National Women’s Soccer League. They chose their name and logo in order to allude to Portland’s nicknames as the Rose City. Since joining the NWSL, the Thorns have been a dominant force each year and their fans have consistently been the most passionate in the league.
History of the Portland Thorns FC
Once the National Women’s Soccer League was formed, the league held a player allocation for players from the national women’s soccer team and Portland initially received seven players. Among these players were two of the best strikers in the world, Alex Morgan and Christine Sinclair. During their inaugural year in the league, the Portland Thorns FC earned third place overall in the regular season and they went on to become the winners of the first-ever NWSL championship. The went on to win the NWSL championship again in 2017.
Fans of the Portland Thorns FC came out in droves from the very first season of the NWSL with a massive opening crowd of 16,479 spectators. This opening night set a record for the single-game attendance in women’s professional soccer in the United States. Later, that record would be broken by the Thorns themselves in a regular-season home finale with 17,619 attendees.
In the entire NWSL, there are only two teams who have been granted affiliation with Major League Soccer and the Thorns are one of them. Due to this partnership, the Portland women’s soccer team gets access to many of the facilities that are afforded to teams in the MLS. This includes the beautiful stadium at Providence Park and all of the on-site features.
Portland Thorns FC Support
As expected from Portland sports fans, the Thorns have maintained the highest average attendance in the NWSL. The team also set a league record of 25,218 for attendance during an August 11, 2019 match where they played against the North Carolina Courage. Fans in Portland hail the Thorns as hometown heroes, and they are the most diehard and passionate fans in all of women’s soccer.
Fan support for the Portland Thorns FC was so high that they even managed to draw season-high attendance numbers while they were playing on the road. Fans of the team set an away game record with an impressive 5,011 visiting fans attending a match against the Washington Spirit on May 4th, 2013.
In more recent years, the Thorns have been receiving love and adoration from the city for their consistent dominance and fighting spirit in the league. So much so that the City Council of Portland has declared July to be Portland Thorns FC month after nine players on the team came back from competing in the Women’s World Cup in France. These players said that they spotted Portland fans and supporters all the way in France.
The council also used this moment of recognition to bring attention to the NWSL team and their efforts both on and off the field. For instance, some players on the Portland Thorns FC roster played a major role in the gender discrimination lawsuit that was launched against the United States Soccer Federation.
This lawsuit alleges that members of the women’s national soccer team receive less compensation, play on inferior fields more often and are less promoted than the men’s National Team. Although they have faced opposition from the United States Soccer Federation, the Thorns continue to stand up for equal compensation.
Notable Members of the Portland Thorns FC Roster
Among the many stars on the Portland Thorns FC roster, there are some notable players who participated in the Women’s World Cup. Here is a list of Thorns players and the countries that they played for during the last World Cup:
- Ellie Carpenter – Australia
- Caitlin Foord – Australia
- Hayley Raso – Australia
- Andressinha – Brazil
- Christine Sinclair – Canada
- Adrianna Franch – United States
- Emily Sonnett – United States
- Lindsey Horan – United States
- Tobin Heath – United States
Future Outlook for the Portland Thorns FC
As the summer’s World Cup drew to a close, many fans were concerned about how the Portland Thorns FC roster would manage during the first few weeks of the season. This is because nine members of the Thorns were away for the summer participating in the Women’s World Cup. The last time there was a similar situation for the Thorns in 2015, it became the only season where Portland did not make it to the NWLS playoffs.
However, this new Portland Thorns FC team is very different from the team in 2014, boasting much more depth than before. One other benefit of the situation is that the Thorns took advantage of the period where the maximum players were away to get some in-game time for many other players on the roster.
The current Portland Thorns FC team has the experience and the depth to overcome the difficulties of the early part of the season. The head coach, Mark Parsons, discussed how the team’s focus would be to make quality use of the time that each player is able to put onto the field instead of focusing on how much play time they receive.
In the long run, the Thorns could potentially face off against the North Carolina Courage again, so they must prepare for the challenges that the 2019 season holds. Hopefully, if the Thorns FC standings are looking solid by the end of the season, the team will have a full roster when the playoffs come around. With the experience this two-time champion team has, anything is possible.
Photo by Keeton Gale.