Sport of soccer picks up pace in Hawaii

Scott Keopuhiw
Scott Keopuhiw

By Jason Tang - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Almost 10,000 players, coaches and officials stormed into Honolulu for the U.S. Youth Soccer Far West Regional Tournament.

It's a great opportunity for the State to showcase the island, but it's also an opportunity for soccer to showcase itself to all of us here in Hawaii.

It's the most popular sport in the world. But here in the islands that's certainly not the case. However, it's slowly picking up the pace.

"The U.S. Youth Soccer Region Four Championships is part of the National Championship series, which is the largest tournament in country, so we're so fortunate to have it here," said Scott Keopuhiw, Hawaii Youth Soccer Association president.

The tournament brings in millions of dollars to our economy, but it also allows our local teams to play at the highest level right here in their own backyard.

"This year we have 24 teams participating in the Regional Tournament and that's the most we've ever had, so that's a huge benefit for our own teams," said Keopuhiw.

This is the 2nd time Hawaii's hosted the Region Four Tourney, and officials have seen interest in the sport increase over the years.

Having tournament like this, we've showed a small increase in registration numbers right after the 2003 Region Four U.S. Youth Soccer Tournament was held here and we're hoping that the same thing happens this time," said Keopuhiw.

Local soccer superstars Brian Ching and Natasha Kai both played in this Regional Tournament, and their example still inspires players today.

The kids are beginning to realize that they have that potential if they work hard and have opportunities to play in these kids of tournaments here at home, anything can happen to them," said Keopuhiw.

Eight local teams competed in the quarterfinals, half of them will advance to play in Saturday's semifinal round.