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ESPN-backed Hawaii soccer event will have an international flavor

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ESPN is backing an international soccer event that will likely match four pro teams at Aloha Stadium next Feb. 23 and 25.

The Hawaiian Islands Invitational will be shown globally by ESPN properties, officials said.

Plans are to include a yet-to-be announced representative from Major League Soccer with three foreign clubs in the four-match event. Melbourne Heart FC of Australia is one likely participant, while organizers say they are talking to teams from South Korea’s K-League and Japan’s J. League.

The MLS representative is expected to be either a West Coast team — likely the Seattle Sounders — or the Houston Dynamo.

Houston features Kamehameha Schools graduate Brian Ching, a former U. S. World Cup member. He and the Dynamo appeared in the Pan-Pacific Championships at Aloha Stadium in 2008, an event that drew nearly 40,000.

Ching said he would like to return home to play in the event, but said regardless of which team appears, "I just think it is a great opportunity for all of Hawaii to see world class soccer.

"It gives kids the opportunity to see in person what top level soccer is. It is an opportunity I would have loved to have had when I was growing up in Hawaii."

A Sounders’ spokesman did not return calls to the Star-Advertiser.

"We are appreciative to the Hawaii Tourism Authority efforts in making this event a reality," said David Matlin, executive director of the Hawaiian Islands Invitational. "The international flavor of the Hawaiian Islands Invitational will help strengthen Hawaii’s position as a destination of choice among Pacific Rim countries. We are also excited to have Hawaii’s flagship carrier, Hawaiian Airlines, as our official airline for the tournament."

The event will be the third owned and operated by ESPN Regional Television to be based here. ERT earlier established the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl game and Diamond Head Classic basketball tournament.

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