The 2010 MLS Cup champion Colorado Rapids are going international.
In addition to qualifying directly for the CONCACAF Champions League group stage, winning the MLS title last year has also earned them the invitation to play in the Hawaiian Islands Invitational to be held at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu on February 23-25, 2012.
The Rapids will join Japanese club Yokohama FC, Korean side Incheon United FC and Australia's Melbourne Heart FC in the four-team international soccer event that will be organized in a partnership involving ESPN Regional Television Inc., the Hawai’i Tourism Authority, LeadOff Sports Marketing and MLS.
The event will help the Rapids prepare for what they hope will be an appearance in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals between March 6-8, 2012. Organizers will host the teams for a week-long training camp and a host of local soccer and cultural activities.
Colorado right back Kosuke Kimura, the first Japanese player in MLS, could get a chance to take on one of the most high-profile clubs from his native country in Yokohama FC. The Rapids may also reacquaint themselves with soon-to-be ex-D.C. United Brazilian Fred, who will be joining Melbourne Heart this summer.
The Rapids will not be the first MLS team to play in a soccer event in Hawai’i. Back in 2007 the Houston Dynamo and LA Galaxy participated in the inaugural edition of the Pan Pacific Championship, a competition won by Japanese side Gamba Osaka with a 6-1 win over the Dynamo in the final. LA finished third, defeating Sydney FC in the consolation match at Aloha Stadium.
The inaugural Hawaiian Islands Invitational will be broadcast on ESPN3.com and it is yet to be known whether one of the ESPN television networks will also carry the events in the US.
Tickets go on sale on August 1 and additional details about the event can be found at www.hawaiianislandsinvitational.com.