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Saturday, February 26, 2005



ALOHA SOCCER CUP


Galaxy and United bring
professional soccer back
to Hawaii tonight

The Los Angeles Galaxy open their preseason tonight with a match against the defending Major League Soccer champion D.C. United in the Aloha Soccer Cup at Aloha Stadium.

Aloha Soccer Cup

Who: D.C. United vs. Los Angeles Galaxy

When: Tomorrow, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Aloha Stadium

Radio/TV: None

Admission: General, $20; reserved, $22-$60. Available at Aloha Stadium, UH box office, military ticket outlets and etickethawaii.com.

Parking: $5

Pregame schedule: Parking lot open, 2:30 p.m.; stadium gates open, 3 p.m.; HYSA Under-19 Boys All-Star match, 3:30 p.m.; HYSA Under-11 Girls President's Day Cup championship match, 5:10 p.m.

Note: Tailgating is prohibited.

The match features eight-time MLS all-star and international veteran Cobi Jones of the Galaxy and Freddy Adu, the phenom who made his professional debut as a 14-year-old last year with United.

However, there is much more to the match, as both teams are preparing for the MLS season that starts in April. The draft and trades have changed both rosters. The players are competing for positions and have a month to prove their worth.

This gives Hawaii's sporting fans the opportunity to watch the first top-level professional soccer match in the 50th State since Team Hawaii's final regular-season North American Soccer League match in 1977.

That year youth soccer was still in its infancy, there was no girls soccer in the high schools, the University of Hawaii had dropped men's soccer for gender-equity reasons and there were just two adult leagues.

The soccer climate is totally different in Hawaii now. There are 30,000 youth playing the game under the American Youth Soccer Organization and Hawaii Youth Soccer Association banners; boys and girls soccer in just about every high school on every island; adult leagues on every island; and a thriving women's program at UH.

The idea for tonight's match hatched in July 2003 when Galaxy director of special projects Blane Sheppard was talking with George Kuntz, men's soccer coach at UC Irvine and Director of Coaches Education for the HYSA. They pitched the idea to Galaxy executives and to the leaders of the Hawaii Soccer Federation that December. By last spring, a partnership had been formed.

A multi-year agreement was signed with the Galaxy coming here for a preseason match for five years. The first thought for an opponent was Hiroshima from Japan's J-League, but that fell through when Japan started league play earlier because of World Cup qualifying matches.

Since the Galaxy owner, Anschutz Entertainment Group, also owns five other MLS teams, the San Jose Earthquakes and local product Brian Ching were considered but unavailable. As luck would have it, eventual 2004 MLS champion D.C. United was interested and Sheppard said the biggest selling point for United general manager Doug Hamilton was the game's location.

"Everything was solidified this past summer," said Paul Shinkawa, a spokesman for the Hawaii Soccer Federation. "We would like to have a J-League team here in the future."

"It's an opportunity to come out and watch the best soccer being played in the country right now. We enjoy an entertaining type of soccer and hope to bring it here," said Sheppard. "It will be great to see the kids looking at these players and knowing there is a place for them to play."

Local organizations had the chance to presell the $20 general admission ticket and receive a rebate. According to Shinkawa, the rebate started at $10 per ticket for any group selling 1,000 tickets and was tiered down for fewer tickets sold, but with a minimum $5 rebate.

The 11th Army National Guard Band will perform and Jordan Segundo will sing the Star Spangled Banner and Hawaii Pono'i. ... There will be an autograph session for spectators at the end of the match following the conclusion of media interviews.

Tonight's match is the first of the preseason for the Galaxy. United played five matches in Florida earlier this month, winning them all, including three against MLS teams.



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