The Portland Timbers’ second team, Timbers 2, are back for the 2022 season. Here’s everything you need to know about it.
“T2” have not played a match since their 2020 season in the USL Championship. MLS Next Pro is a different competition, effectively at the third tier of the U.S. soccer pyramid.
What the hell is “MLS Next Pro”?
USL was tired of MLS second teams competing in their highest-level league (the USL Championship) and MLS didn’t want their second teams to be all the way down in USL League One, so MLS started their own league.
There are 21 MLS Next Pro teams for the 2022 season. Almost all of them are second teams for MLS clubs. Only one is not affiliated with an MLS first team: the Jamie Vardy-co-owned Rochester New York FC, formerly the Rochester Rhinos.
Interestingly, MLS is looking to expand the absolute heck out of this thing. MLSsoccer.com’s Andrew Wiebe interviewed the head honchos of MLS Next Pro, and they want to expand to 40-plus teams, including more independent clubs.
Any weird competitive twists?
So glad you asked — of course there are! After 90 minutes, regular season draws will be settled by a penalty shootout. Each team in the shootout gets a point and the shootout-winning team gets a second point. (This is similar to the NHL’s shootout system.)
MLS Next Pro will have two groups inside each Western and Eastern conference. T2 are in the “Pacific Division” with Real Monarchs, San Jose Earthquakes II, Tacoma Defiance, and Whitecaps FC 2.
Three days 'til we get rolling. 🔜— MLS NEXT Pro (@MLSNEXTPRO) March 22, 2022
Another look at the 21 clubs you'll be seeing on the field this season. ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/mrPX18JnWL
The top two teams from each division qualify for the playoffs, with the next two highest points earners also going to the playoffs. Playoff games are single-leg and hosted by the higher seed (determined by points).
Other MLS Next Pro notes:
- 24 total matches: 12 home, 12 away
- Five substitutions per match in three windows
- Video reviews
- No playoff re-seeding
How do I watch T2?
All MLS Next Pro matches will be streamed on MLSNextPro.com, with no blackouts.
Also, per MLS, “More than 30 games will be billed as ‘Games of the Week,’ featuring enhanced productions. Each MLS NEXT Pro club will have at least one home game featured, and all playoff games will be enhanced productions.”
T2 home games will be played at Hillsboro Stadium, home of Minor League Baseball’s Hillsboro Hops — though it appears games will be played on the turf football field, not the baseball diamond.
The Hops will remain in charge of T2 business operations as part of a partnership between the two clubs. Home tickets are $10 each for general admission and $15 for a better seat in the middle of the stands.
When are the games?
The home opener is Wednesday, March 31st. There will be 12 home and 12 away matches. The home rivalry matches are back-to-back: Tacoma on July 10th, Vancouver on July 16th. The July 22nd match will be in Providence Park — so far it’s the only one listed there. A full schedule is available here.
What about the rebrand?
In the summer of 2021, the Timbers announced a T2 rebrand ahead of the 2022 season, but no news has surfaced since then. It appears the club will move forward with their generic branding for the time being, as will 16 other MLS Next Pro clubs.
The only unique MLS Next Pro club names are Rochester New York FC, Tacoma Defiance (Seattle Sounders affiliate), Real Monarchs (Real Salt Lake), and North Texas SC (FC Dallas).
Who’s on the team?
The head coach’s name is Shannon Murray. Former Timber Andres Flores is one of his assistants. You can read more about the coaching staff here.
The club announced six signings on Monday which included this nugget: “Players from the Timbers’ first team and academy will supplement the roster, subject to change ahead of each game.”
I’ll briefly go through the six permanent T2 guys here. The link above provides more thorough descriptions.
- Julian Bravo: 21yo defender. Second round 2022 SuperDraft pick. Primarily a mid in college (Santa Clara).
- Victor Griffith: 21yo holding mid. Bounced around Central American leagues after making his pro debut at age 15. Has 10 caps for Panama’s National Team.
- Ismaila Jome: 27yo left back. Was on the first team last year as the backup left back but an injury kept him out all year. Historically a USL-level guy but looked solid in the extremely small sample size we got last year.
- Dawson McCartney: 23yo midfielder. First round 2021 SuperDraft pick. Looked decent in preseason with the first team.
- Selmir Miscic: 21yo attacker. Pro debut at 15 in USL Championship. Signed by the Union and loaned to a USL1 team last year. Scored 4 goals in almost 16 games’ worth of minutes.
- Carlos Vivas: 19yo defender. Won the Venezuelan league title last year (16 starts) in his fourth year with Deportivo Táchira.
The competition structure should make for some exciting matches, but this is still a second team. It’ll be really tough to track every player but I wouldn’t be surprised to see one or two of these guys jump up to the first team (especially defenders, which is already a thin group in the first team).
Portland have historically lagged in player development, so any positive news is a step in the right direction for T2. Murray seems like a driven coach and has experience with Gio Savarese, so there’s no reason to fear this will go wrong.