What is Cascadia and why should you care? There is no definitive answer, except to say it encompasses British Columbia, Washington and Oregon. Is it an independence movement or just simply a bioregion? Everyone will have their own answer to those questions, but for the sake of this piece, Cascadia is Life. So is the Cascadia Cup, a cup created by supporters to the best team in the region (Vancouver Whitecaps, Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers). Much like other regional competitions, MLS has tried to, and in some cases, successfully capitalized on it. That didn’t fly in Cascadia. We fought back and got an agreement that kept control of the Cup where it belonged, in the hands of the supporters.
Much like my piece on Vancouver/Portland relations, I have once again called upon a representative from each supporters group, this time including Seattle. I have John Knox (Vancouver Southsiders), Martin Morlot (Curva Collective), Matthew Lindley (Timbers Army) and Ben Johnson (Eastside Supporters) sharing some of their thoughts about Cascadia, the Cup and the rivalry.
Once again, I’ve chosen 3 questions and answers to feature in this piece.
1) With the increased exposure of the Cascadia Cup, do you feel the scheduling of matches, for tv purposes to be a problem or just something you have to deal with?
Matthew Lindley: It's the way it goes I guess. The league TV deal calls for Sunday matches, and I think both networks ultimately do a great job. But having a mid-day or prime time Saturday derby would be a welcome change of pace, and much easier on the traveling support.
John Knox: I think there have been a few occasions when the match dates and kickoff times have been particularly unkind to Portland supporters hoping to travel to Vancouver. If the league wants the best atmosphere and exposure for those matches, they should be doing everything they can to ensure that the highest possible number of supporters have the means to make their way into enemy territory. The Southsiders sound far noisier in Portland and Seattle than they do at home. Cascadia away days just mean all that much more.
Martin Morlot: Yes, I find it annoying to have a game on Friday night or Sunday midday. Makes it harder for supporters to make their way to the game or watch the game on TV. I am also not a fan of any slot that is not a regular 7pm on Saturday for the same reasons.
Ben Johnson: It sucks. I hate having Sunday mid-afternoon matches. It’s really unfortunate that so many soccer fans in MLS have recognized how much better we are than everyone else and tune in with such high viewership.
2) How did you become aware of the Cascadia rivalry, and the Cup?
Martin Morlot: The year I started sitting with my group.
Ben Johnson: PDX and VAN announced they would be joining the league about the time I moved back to Seattle. I knew about the rivalry but hadn’t witnessed it firsthand so I dove into the history. I was impressed by the SGs launching the Cup as a supporter trophy and when I saw the 48 seconds celebration I was hooked.
John Knox: I heard about the NASL rivalries very early on when I was a kid. When I started going to games at Swangard, it seemed there was always somebody in the crowd talking about the match where 5,000 Caps fans went to the Tacoma Dome. It was clear to me from the very start that matches against Seattle were a really big deal. When the Timbers re-launched in 2001 and entered the same league as the Caps and Sounders, it was clear that blood would soon be boiling again in all three cities.
As for the Cascadia Cup, the Southsiders were contacted by Seattle supporters on our old Internet discussion forum in 2003. They asked if we were interested in taking a role in a supporter-driven tournament that would reward the best team with a trophy. It was a great idea, and myself and about a dozen others put money towards the purchase of what would eventually come to be known as the Cascadia Cup.
Matthew Lindley: I became aware of the Cascadia rivalry and cup almost right away. I think anytime you start rooting for a team one of the first things you realize is who your main foes are. Learning about the history of the Cascadia Cup only added to how special being a part of this rivalry is as a supporter.
3) How did you react when you found out that MLS was trying to trademark the Cup?
Matthew Lindley: I was angry as everyone else I suppose but not at all surprised. Commissioner Garber has long shown he is more interested in exploiting support to line the leagues pockets than he is in fostering support. That said, I had a feeling, as string as the three supporters groups and the Cascadia council are, that they would not get away with it.
John Knox: Myself and the Southsiders board of the day were expecting this to happen. We had just seen how the supporters of Colorado and RSL were blindsided by the league's move to grant Subaru sponsorship rights to the Rocky Mountain Cup without one iota of consultation. Much like the Cascadia Cup, this was a fan-created tournament and trophy that came into existence without support from the clubs or the league. We knew that our derby was going to be the biggest in MLS, and that made the Cascadia Cup a big target for exploitation. Sure enough, it was the Southsiders who discovered MLS had made a Canadian trademark claim, which we challenged immediately. We also brought the ECS and Timbers Army up to speed, and that's what led to the formation of the Cascadia Cup Council, the legal entity which serves as guardians of the Cup today.
Ben Johnson: I was pretty upset but unsurprised. It is the job of corporations to make money. Unfortunately there aren’t enough people in the world who stop and ask if it’s a good idea. MLS definitely attempted to do this in a very underhanded way which added to the problem. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the only reason I follow this league is because my team is in it. If Sounders ever left I’d drop it in a second.
Martin Morlot: I was pretty pissed off about it. Why does this league have so much greed governing it. The same goes for them wanting to make the supporters sign a conduct code.
It's only after the Cup dispute was settled did MLS start to pay attention to Cascadia, and various features have been done looking at this rivalry. As such, with more national attention being paid, we end up with Vancouver @ Portland, with a 1:59pm (not 1:30) kickoff to accomodate TV.
To sum everything up, whether you’re green and gold to the core, or blue and white all over, one thing remains consistent: Cascadia is real. The range of opinions expressed and the emotion behind it speaks volumes as to what makes Cascadia and the Cup special. It’s the one thing the supporters in all 3 cities can agree upon. The Cup belongs to us, the supporters, and no amount of underhanded tactic can overcome the will of the people in Cascadia.