A Glimpse Into America’s Most Unique Soccer Culture Through Portland’s Toffee League

Featuring teams made up of some of the most creative minds in Portland, the Avery Dennison Toffee League describes itself as “the beautiful game’s weirdest league on the planet.” 

The Avery Dennison Toffee League could only exist in Portland. The city’s rich soccer history and down-to-earth, accepting nature make it perfect for the league, which is one of the most colorful and entertaining amateur leagues in the world. Oh, and it’s weird — because, well, Portland’s proudly weird.

The league was founded just last year, but it has already generated a nationwide buzz through its teams’ unique kits and eccentric personalities, all brought together by the love of the beautiful game.

toffee league

toffee league

The Toffee League is an offspring of The Toffee Club, an English football pub in Portland co-founded in 2016 by Niki Diamond, her husband Pete Hoppins, and brother-in-law Jack Hoppins. The Toffee Club partnered with Avery Dennison, a Fortune 500 company specializing in adhesive materials, to not only sponsor the league but provide unique patches and crests for each team’s custom kit.

“We’d worked with Avery in the past, including a project we did for Copa America where we designed a crest for each team in the tournament,” said Diamond, who also operates as the Toffee Club’s general manager. “This project was a way for Avery to showcase their work to some big clients like Nike and Adidas in Portland and an opportunity for us to engage our customers in the process of customization throughout the tournament. After Copa we started talking about how to take the partnership to the next step and the Avery Dennison Toffee League was formed.”

With Avery Dennison providing the necessary supplies, each of the eight teams participating in the Toffee League’s inaugural season designed their own kits and crests. The creative nature of each club resulted in an incredible array of unis, each with its own unique flair.

toffee league

toffee league

toffee league

The co-ed league began with an indoor Community Shield Tournament played at Rose City Futsal, and has since gone on to outdoor tournaments played at Buckman field, conveniently located near the Toffee Club.

“Having our base so close to the pub really helped build the community off the pitch because it was easy for everyone to pile back to the pub for a pint and a snack after the games finished,” Diamond said.

Each of the teams involved in the inaugural season contributed to the uniqueness of the league. Evergreen FC, who won the inaugural championship, is mostly made up of Portland Timbers employees and friends.

“Winning the league was amazing,” Evergreen FC Captain Lulu Martinez said. “In the beginning of the season we struggled a bit, but the second half we really found our groove and played together as a team. It was pretty great to win the inaugural season and be able to showcase our trophy around Providence Park. We celebrated with beer. Lots of beer. And a league party at the Toffee Club the night after the game.”

Martinez, who works in Portland as a graphic designer and has played soccer her whole life, is drawn to the league’s commitment to promoting artistic creativity.

Other teams in the first season of the league included the Community Shield Tournament champions Glory Hunters FC, the Portland Netrippers, which is Portland’s only LGBTQ club, the Industry Football Club, which is dedicated to Mexican goalkeeping great Jorge Campos, and Outsiders FC, which is well, pretty self-explanatory. And then there’s the Jnr Juniors, whose mascot Kruster the Bear, took home the inaugural MVP award.

“He was amazing,” Diamond said. “He turned up to loads of the games in 90-degree heat, and arrived in his customized Mazda Miata to the pub during their team party.”

Kruster the Bear on Miata

Kruster the Bear

The other two teams that participated in the league’s inaugural season were Space Holes FC and Fish and Chips FC, the house team which represents the Toffee Club.

“The relationships I formed through the Toffee Club’s community of football players and lovers of the game ultimately led me to the opportunity to participate,” said Fish and Chips FC Captain Peter Erdahl. “That is one of the great things about the Toffee Club. Whether you are a player, a fan, or someone being introduced to the game for the first time, the Toffee Club offers a space watch football, have a pie, and share a pint with like-minded lovers of the beautiful game.”

Even the Toffee League website is quintessential Portland, with many of the teams posting playfully irreverent bios. Glory Hunters FC’s bio boasts, “We’re here for the nutmegs and rabonas. The champagne celebrations and open-top bus parades.”

Outsider FC’s bio declares, “Society doesn’t know what to do with us. And we couldn’t care less.” Jnr Juniors’ bio is in stream of consciousness style and includes Shakespearean language, a Looney Tunes shout-out, and a jarring recollection of a Rush Hour 2 scene to end it. Fish and Chips FC’s bio includes a well-done satirical documentary trailer on the team’s rise.

The Toffee League’s second season is set to begin soon, and Diamond couldn’t be more ready. “We’ve grown from 8 teams to 12 this year, which is so exciting,” she says. “We’ve had an amazing level of interest from teams, players, and potential partners.”

We’re all about the creatives and football lovers around the world that are blending their unique talents and passions to build something new for the culture, and the Toffee League’s founders and participants do so in their own way — a weird way.

For more updates on the Toffee League, visit its website and follow its Instagram