With MLS qualifying eliminated from the US Open Cup, the Portland Timbers will play their first game in the 2012 tournament on Tuesday May 29. This comes nine days after hosting Chicago Fire (May 20) and three days after hosting Vancouver Whitecaps (May 26). That alignment makes it imperative that the Timbers win the right to host the May 29 Third Round tie, regardless of opponent (home team will be ‘randomly’ selected through Quaterfinal rounds). Territorial considerations make it likely that Portland will play a team in the western part of the country, particularly if a PDL side makes it to the Third Round.
The next MLS match for the Timbers after their May 29 US Open Cup date is not until June 17 in Los Angeles against the Galaxy. Winning in the Third Round would bring a Fourth Round date of June 5, still a full twelve days clear of the next scheduled match. Should the Timbers advance beyond that, scheduling becomes much more of an issue.
Timbers coaches and management used scheduling as the reason for the early exit from MLS qualifying in 2011, a claim that is justified given the May 3 date squeezed between MLS home dates on April 30 and May 6. Using almost exclusively reserves, the Timbers crashed out of the tournament at home 1-0 to San Jose Earthquakes after extra time. Given the need for home victories in the debut MLS season and the fact that Portland won both games surrounding their Open Cup exit, the club mostly got a pass. But in 2012, with no such scheduling issues and the likelihood of relatively close travel (or no travel at all), the expectation of advancement, at the very least to the Fourth Round, will be high.