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Why Does Portland Hate Seattle The Story Behind the Rivalry

Why Does Portland Hate Seattle? The Story Behind the Rivalry

When you hear that Portland hates Seattle (and vice versa), soccer is always the first thing that comes to mind. It’s no secret that the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders have one of the best rivalries in Major League Soccer or MLS.

But there’s more to this than that.

Portland hates Seattle and vice-versa due to their sports rivalry, sure. But it’s also because Seattle butted heads with Portland even back in the 19th century for economic dominance. 

To add to that, there are now similarities in their hipster cultures, which heats up the rivalry even more.

Curious about the whole story? Let’s find out by covering the start of the rivalry, its development into a cultural feud, and of course, its embodiment in sports rivalries.

Where did the Portland-Seattle rivalry start?

Where did the Portland-Seattle rivalry start

The story behind why Portland hates Seattle goes beyond soccer battles today. The truth is, it all started in the early 19th century when the rivalry stemmed between these two cities trying to be economic giants of the time.

According to historian Mansel Blackford, Portland was the dominant city in the Pacific Northwest for the majority of the 19th century. 

However, by the 1890s, the scales had tipped in Seattle’s favor. 

You could already see this in the way they framed non-economic events pitting the two cities against each other. In 1893, for example, The Oregonian published a story about Portland and Seattle’s football battle that was dubbed “the greatest football battle seen on the Pacific Coast.” 

Around that time, a bitter rivalry was already developing between the two cities. And that was also when Portland’s bitterness over Seattle brewed harder.

At that time, Seattle had far greater economic success than Portland. This was partly because Seattle had an access advantage: it’s much easier to ship goods from there even now. 

Then there were the upgraded railroad lines that ran through the city of Seattle. Meanwhile, ships passing through Portland had to cross the perilous Columbia River bar.

And during the gold rush, Seattle’s economy grew stronger as it developed closer ties to Alaska – and Portlanders were only further irritated by this. 

Years passed, but the rivalry lived on. A work published in 1920 listed the Seattle-Portland rivalry alongside Minneapolis-St. Paul, Dallas-Fort Worth, and San Francisco-Los Angeles as a “well-known” intercity feud in a chapter on sectional rivalry in the American West. 

Does Portland hate Seattle because of its culture?

Does Portland hate Seattle because of its culture

The rivalry between Portland and Seattle extended from a competition to see which city could grow the fastest and largest. This also grew into a clash over culture and how to develop it properly – since both cities have fairly similar lifestyles. 

Speaking of this aspect, Mansel Blackford made the case that although most Seattle residents initially agreed that Portland had the upper hand in terms of culture, they also saw Seattle as more dynamic and a place where things got done.

Today, local and national media frequently compare the two cities’ hipster cultures. Comparisons tend to invite competition.

The rivalry is also stoked by the competitive food cultures of the two cities. As with the hipster culture, there are actually quite a few similarities here too – such as local pride in the superiority of each city’s beer and brew pubs, donuts, and street food, including food trucks.

Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders: Biggest Sports Rivalry in History

Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders Biggest Sports Rivalry in History

Seattle vs. Portland is the most heated rivalry in Major League Soccer and arguably the biggest rivalry in American sports in general. And this fight is definitely a major cause of why Portland hates Seattle.

If you watch a game where these two are competing against each other, you might want to cover your ears as you will hear impolite chants from their fanbase. (We’d love to sample a few of these chants for you but we’d rather keep it chill here!)

You wouldn’t believe it, but that’s just one way that the rivalry between the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders can turn nasty.

The rivalry between the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers is well-known throughout the United States and isn’t just something the MLS promotes for rivalry week. 

Seattle and Portland have been playing each other since their first NASL game, unlike some of the more recent MLS rivalries. 

Now, with so much history against each other, any supporter of these two teams is aware of the intense animosity that exists between the two teams and their supporters.

But when did the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders rivalry begin?

The conflict all began on May 2, 1975. In the inaugural Timbers game, the two teams played each other for the first time ever. 

Seattle spoiled the party by defeating Portland 1-0. Later that season, on July 26, 1975, Portland traveled to Seattle and defeated the Sounders 2-1 in front of 27,310 fans.

When the two teams met in the NASL playoffs, the rivalry between them took a step forward. Overall, Portland had the better season record, going 16-6 to Seattle’s 15-7. 

This gave Portland the advantage of hosting the Seattle Sounders in the quarterfinals. Portland, as expected, was the victor, progressing with a 2-1 score.

Four years later, on June 30, 1979, Portland traveled to Seattle and fell to the Sounders 5-1; this defeat would stand as the two teams’ largest margin of victory until the 1980s. But it didn’t take long for the Portland Timbers team to fold following the 1982 NASL season. 

Then, at the end of the 1983 NASL season, Seattle quickly followed suit and folded, and the entire NASL league followed suit in 1985.

The two teams’ rivalry persisted throughout the lower divisions before both were granted MLS franchises.

Portland and Seattle in the MLS: The Heat Lives On

Portland and Seattle in the MLS The Heat Lives On

The two most significant moments in the rivalry between Portland and Seattle in Major League Soccer occurred a few years ago. 

The Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers met in the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2013 MLS Cup Playoffs. The Timbers prevailed 2-1 in the opening game. The Timbers then again won 3-2 in the return match to end the semifinals, 5-3.

The next biggest moment in this rivalry’s history occurred not in a game between the two, but in an accomplishment claimed by the Timbers.

As you may know, Portland became the first Cascadia team to win the MLS Cup after defeating Columbus 2-1. This trophy instilled even more animosity between the Timbers and the Sounders.

Sounders fans believe that their team has consistently been the best Cascadia team in the MLS and that they should have won the cup first. Portland, on the other hand, is rejoicing in their MLS Cup victory and taking every chance they get to gloat about it.

Today, Portland’s animosity toward Seattle is primarily motivated by sports, specifically soccer. Well, there are chants and yelling if you ever sit in a game with the Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders, which basically says it all. 

Historians believe (and have proven) that this rivalry was fueled by a deeper conflict between the two cities. Competition in economic dominance, arts and culture, and, of course, the most popular of all, city sports teams, will always exist.

Will Portland’s hatred for Seattle persist? We’ll find out as time goes on!

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