For a moment before a match begins at Providence Park, the home of the Portland Timbers, there’s a sense of a collective breath-holding. As the green-and-gold clad players, adored by the tens of thousands surrounding them, get ready to kick off, the supporters in the stands grab their moment. That’s when the Timbers Army, one of the most passionate and devoted supporters’ groups in soccer, unfurl their latest creation, a massive, match-specific tifo display that often involves rigs and pulleys, choreographed supplementary banners, and plenty of accompanying noise.
That sets the tone for an intense 90-minutes-plus during which the walls of the storied venue never stop vibrating with cheers, rhythmic chants, and the occasional mass jingling of car keys — another supporter tradition — and, yes, a chainsaw buzzing.
Add in local food and brews, and a city center that heaves with Timbers regalia on every day, not just matchday, and Providence Park easily stands out as one of the top venues in MLS — and a must-see for soccer fans looking to travel the global circuit, too.
First, of course, there’s Portland itself — a city vibrant enough to keep you busy but small enough to navigate on foot or by a quick car trip. Forests and greenery abound, while the city’s historic downtown holds on to some of its western-frontier vibe. You can walk from downtown to Providence Park in about an easy 20 minutes, passing what seems like a million vegan restaurants, donut shops, record stores, and, of course, the famous, sprawling Powell’s book store on the way.
This is a town that LOVES the Timbers — and, of course, the city’s NWSL side, the Portland Thorns. Part of this is because the team is among a few surviving in the country boasting a long history; the Timbers began in 1975, long predating MLS. (Read a good full history of the team on the Timbers site; they joined the league in 2011.)
Flags and memorabilia for both the men’s and women’s teams hang out on front porches, shop windows, and bars, and on matchday, that only explodes. Fans line up in the city square hours before, part of it with good reason — the Timbers Army section of the stadium, strictly open only to TA members, is general admission.
But while they set the tone for the whole stadium, everyone in the stadium takes their support equally seriously; there’s a waiting list for season tickets, after all. And there isn’t a bad seat in the house. Converted from a Minor League Baseball stadium ahead of the Timbers' move to MLS, the team’s ownership reconfigured Providence Park to be properly soccer-specific, with steep sightlines and seats set up close to the pitch.
As this all goes down in the Pacific Northwest — where local purveyors prepare food and drink with care and pride — of course, then, there’s plenty in the way of local beers and food throughout the concourse. A selection of stands representing Portland’s famous food trucks rotates, and in other permanent stands, that local vibe continues. Willamette Valley vegetables feature in a salad; local cheese adds gooey depth to mac and cheese, or a quesadilla themed to the day’s match. There are plenty of nods to the local popularity of animal-free lifestyles, too — one permanent menu item is a burger made with meatless Field Roast.
So how about that buzzing chainsaw? That comes courtesy of Timber Joey, sort of the team’s "mascot" but more of a beloved and involved community figure in the city. In a nod to the region’s logging history, every time the Timbers score, he saws a new slice from a colossal log covered in Timbers and Timbers Army scarves — and ceremonially hands it off to both fans and players in celebration.
When the Timbers are at their best, you’re likely to see plenty of that on a visit to Providence Park. And whatever the result, you’re guaranteed an electric atmosphere in a unique setting — a necessary outing for the soccer-travel brag book.