PORTLAND, Ore. -- Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson says he will apply for a Major League Soccer expansion franchise.

MLS plans to expand to 18 teams by 2011, and the league has indicated it might choose the two expansion cities by early 2009. The Timbers play a step below the MLS in the United Soccer League First Division.

"There is no doubt in my mind that Major League Soccer in Portland would both add a tremendous amount to the league and have a phenomenally positive impact on our community and state," Paulson said in a statement Thursday. "We have the most ardent and authentic soccer fan base in the United States, and Soccer City USA deserves a Major League Soccer team."

Paulson said the expansion team would play at the Timbers' current home -- PGE Park in downtown Portland. That might not be in Portland's favor because the stadium has a seating capacity of less than 20,000.

MLS has 14 teams playing this season. Seattle will join in 2009 and a Philadelphia expansion team will debut in 2010.

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