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Women’s Soccer City Getaways

Discover Portland, Thorns and all!


Downtown Portland at night

Lula Flann

In this fourth year of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), all eyes are on the pro players who are bringing it to ten lucky cities from Oregon to New York. If you first started to take note of these fit and fab athletes during the 2015 World Cup and are now wondering how to catch sight of what is predicted to be more formidable play at the Olympics in Rio this summer, consider pairing an NWSL game with a trip to a new destination. While the league is still in growth mode, individual tickets are typically available for purchase, even for same-day play. 

No U.S. city is more soccer-centric than Portland, Oregon. The Portland Thorns FC were first to win the inaugural NWSL title in 2013, and held league-high attendance records until this season, when expansion team, Orlando Pride, shot out of the box with a new attendance high. Portland is one of the NWSL teams that benefit from a shared ownership with a male soccer team, Portland’s wildly popular and long-established Timbers. Drafting off robust existing soccer fever and a successful marketing machine (a benefit not all NWSL clubs share), the word was out early about the Thorns. 

Each of the NWSL teams boasts supporter groups (read more about that phenomenon in Randi Staller’s excellent post covering the same). The Rose City Riveters are the most ardent of all Thorns’ boosters. I chatted with Riveters’ members Kristy and Lara about what they thought makes the magic in the alchemy of fandom and female footballers. Kristy; “Of course, the work of Clive Charles helped make Portland Soccer City USA. I’m a Portlander who played soccer from the time I was 5 and was one of many local kids who benefited by the tremendously strong pro soccer players that have gravitated to the Pacific NW from the English Premier League. A lot of the fan base consists of people who grew up playing here.”  Lara adds, “The Timbers org has taken public stances against racism and homophobia and isn’t afraid to state values. Those values are the same as mine, so it’s just another great reason to enjoy supporting the Thorns.” 

                                                                                                                                    Kristy Rastle & Lara Miller, Photo Courtesy Lula Flann


Checking out the Thorns sets you up for yet another reason to visit Rip City. Put yourself in the stadium seat of a team doing it the right way; check the competitive air service and fares from your city to PDX. The Thorns score the highest average attendance rate of the women’s pro club (15,000+ per game), and show out in Providence Park, a venue located in the heart of a vibrant, gay-friendly Portland. 

While you’re here:

  • Dish: Players can often be spotted post-game at the Civic Tap Room and Hot  Lips Pizza, close to the stadium. A lively community of women’s soccer fans often congregate at woman-owned Bazi Bierbrasserie to watch “away” games on the tele. If fandom isn’t your primary food-motivator, try one of the numerous food tours about town. 
  • Do Not Miss: The ginormous Pine Street Market Food Hall which opened May 1, 2016. The market serves up 10,000 square feet of fresh bev and food options.
  • Drink: Crush Bar and Doug Fir Lounge on the Eastside, Blue Hour in the Pearl or Pépé le Moko if you’re keeping it downtown.
  • Deals: Portland sets trends for indie designers you may have caught on Project Runway. Take home butch wear from hotspot Wild Fang or cool creations from the Alberta Arts District designers, shop haute re-sale at X-tabay or hit the outlet malls. In Oregon, it’s all tax-free.
  • Dream: The Ace Hotel, the Hotel DeLuxe and McMenamins Crystal are close to Providence Park and sport uber-queer vibes, the city’s three Kimpton properties each serve up luxury and a promise of the company’s lesbian-friendly policies. The Jupiter Hotel is located in the close-in Eastside, gay-operated and easy to reach in this public transportation-rich environment.
  • Dally: Extending your stay? Discover the charms of nearby Oregon’s Mt. Hood TerritoryOregon Wine Country or thePeople’s Coast.

These Portland LGBTQ-friendly resources will come in handy, as will the news that the all-women Inferno dance is typically held on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month and the fact that Oregon is now 420-friendly, too.

Train Up: Dig in to find out more about the sport so you’re better able to chat up some of the clamoring Amazons who’ll surround your seats. Most teams live-stream games on YouTube and network coverage improves with each season. Try one of the queer fan sites or subscribe to the sport-specific podcast Women’s World Football Show. You’ll be calling Outswinger and Offside with the best of ‘em. 


You can read more about Lula and her Portland-based mystery series here.

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