Are the Portland Thorns the ideal template for a women’s football club?

Thorns attracted 19,000 fans to their home opener, and that figure was no anomaly. Theirs is a success story years in the making

Mark Parsons gazes towards the gleaming new main stand at Providence Park and smiles. “I just love walking in every day,” the Englishman, who coaches the Portland Thorns and landed the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) championship in 2017, tells the Guardian. “I take 60 seconds and let it all sink in: that I work at the Thorns. To be a part of this is cool.”

Last Saturday, a club record 25,218 fans crammed into arguably the most atmospheric venue in the United States to see the Portland Timbers mark the renovation party with a defeat against in-form MLS leaders LAFC. Yet the most telling evidence of Portland’s thriving soccer ecosystem came the next day. Decked out in red, Thorns supporters of all ages and genders flooded the streets before kick-off and made their way into rejuvenated surroundings, which cost around $85m to complete and have added an extra 4,000 seats to the stadium’s east side.

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