WHAT IS THIS "MLS"?
Soccer—the top tier of professional soccer north of the Rio Grande. Launched in 1996 with 10 teams, MLS has grown slowly and carefully. This year, the league includes 18 teams across the US and Canada. The season starts in March and culminates in November’s MLS Cup Final.

HOW CAN I GO FROM ROOKIE FAN TO SEASONED SUPPORTER?
Check out two great blogs: Dropping Timber (droppingtimber.com) and the Timbers Offside (timbers.theoffside.com). The online radio station Cascadia.fm features two Timbers-oriented programs, Mao’s Football Show and Shed Culture. The official Timbers Army zine, Whipsaw, prints fan-submitted articles of varying degrees of child-friendliness. And, of course, there’s always the official website: portlandtimbers.com.

WHO DO WE HATE?
The Seattle Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps. But especially Seattle. In the 1970s and ’80s, the three cities all fielded teams in now-defunct soccer leagues (see our timeline). The intense rivalries live on, complete with sizable travelling fanbases. With the Whitecaps and Timbers joining the Sounders in MLS this year, the teams’ regular-season matches will decide the Cascadia Cup, an unofficial Pacific Northwest championship.

WHO DO WE FEAR?
No one! But some MLS teams have been more successful than others. DC United has won four league titles (but won just six of 30 league matches last year). The Los Angeles Galaxy has won two championships and played in six MLS Cup Finals. The Houston Dynamo, where Timbers coach John Spencer served as an assistant, won two consecutive titles in 2006 and ’07.

WHO OUR MASCOT?
Timber Joey, a jovial, bearded brute with a chainsaw. His signature move? Chainsawing a hefty hunk off a log every time the Timbers score. Joey has huge shoes to fill: the legendary Timber Jim, the Timbers’ mascot from 1978 until 2008, was an actual lumberjack.

WHO’S FAMOUS?
While we can’t condone the hype, Spice Girl–husband David Beckham (LA Galaxy) and slightly aged French superstar Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls) are both expected to play in the 2011 MLS season. Check mlssoccer.com for their scheduled visits to PGE Park.

UH, WHY CAN’T THEY USE THEIR HANDS?
Oy. To steep yourself in soccer—or, rather, the world’s football—start by picking up a copy of David Goldblatt’s encyclopedic The Ball Is Round: A Global History of Soccer or Franklin Foer’s lighter How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization.