Clash of the Hipster Soccer Titans

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Of the sports that claim to be "major league" anything, only soccer -- and probably only soccer in the Pacific Northwest -- could lead to a battle over whose fans are the biggest hipsters. There's a fascinating feature in the Wall Street Journal on the rivalry between Major League Soccer's Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers, who  will play each other for the first time on Saturday. The two teams are currently tied for first place in the MLS's western conference, but there's so much more at stake than the standing. Behold, the kind of grudge match only a Hipster Runoff fan could love.


Seattle: They can't just have a general manager. Sounders minority owner Drew Carey (yes, that Carey) was adamant that the franchise would be run as a "democracy" when they began play in 2008. Carey called it his way of "spreading the gospel of fan control over the team's management, like they have at Real Madrid and Barcelona." To make it more than a marketing gimmick, the organization gave a booster club called The Alliance a say in how the team is run. So far, writes Dan Ruiz of The Olympian, The Alliance has been a "philosophical concept with few demonstrated successes." That could be because Alliance members don't really get to make many meaningful decisions. Their one real show of force is "a vote on retention or lack of confidence in the general manager." But that only happens once every four years."

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Portland: Portland's booster club, Timbers Army, isn't affiliated with the club, which actually help their hipster credentials. What they lack in access, they make up for in painstakingly documented history, which traces the Timbers back to the city's soccer scene in 1970s. Timbers fan Zach Dundas says that longevity has a lot to do with the city's preponderance of--wait for it--real, blue-collar bars. "The handy proximity of pubs like the Bitter End and the Bull Pen gives fans a chance to congregate before and after games, a crucial ingredient to the Army’s attempt to create a European-style matchday culture," writes Dundas. "The fact that Timbers players—a blue-collar, underpaid breed—sometimes drop by for a post-game pint adds a unique flavor to the club.

Edge: Portland sound like a hipster sports fan dream--underpaid players, drinking in dive bars, conversing with real people. But Sounders fans have a more authentic experience. That trumps fantasy, where hipster credibility is concerned. The Alliance is ostensibly involved in the team's management, but they have no juice. It's like they volunteered to manage the common areas at a community garden, but weren't allowed to grow leeks.


Seattle: XBox

Portland: Alaska Airlines

Edge: A tough call since neither company sells anything that could exactly be considered artisanal. We'll go with Alaska Airlines, because it flies to places where people wear flannel, and because they just unveiled the Timbers jet, a Boeing 737-700 jet painted in the Timbers colors. Plus, it was a DIY job--the paintjob features design elements from two Timbers fans who participated in the airline's "Paint-the-Plane" contest earlier this year. 


Concession Stands

Seattle:  Veggie Dogs, gourmet donuts, cappuccino

Portland:  Barbecued-tofu sandwiches, spinach salads, chocolate-covered bacon

Edge: For being up on the bacon trend, this one goes to Portland.

Trash Talk

Portland to Seattle:

  • "Suck my Xbox!"
  • "Customers" (as opposed as fans)
  • "Republicans...sailing around in their sail boats"

Seattle to Portland:

  • "Portscum!"
  • "Not the brightest bunch," 
  • "Meth-headed" 
  • "Jobless."
  • "[T]he trailer trash of the Pacific Northwest...though they do have a beautiful coastline."

Edge: If this were a contest purely on who got the best digs in, this would go to Seattle in a heartbeat. But it's the the Portland fans who get their hipper-than-thou on here.

Boisterous National Anthem Rendition

Boisterous, intimidating National Anthem singalongs are a good way of measuring passion in European soccer and the Big Ten. Here's how these participants do.



Edge: Portland is conspicuously boisterous. It's the greenhorn enthusiasm of people who want you to know they know what's going on. In other words, hipsters.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.