Surprising news dropped on Wednesday, as Orange County SC announced that Japanese midfielder Keisuke Honda’s company, Soltilo, have officially joined the USL team’s ownership group.
The club, bought by Southern California businessman James Keston in 2016, rebranded at the start of this year and moved into a brand new stadium at Orange County Great Park during the summer. Honda came to Orange County this year, and trained with the team in July while he was out of contract, just prior to signing with Mexican side CF Pachuca.
Excerpts from the OCSC release on the news:
The investment in Orange County SC is the first step in a comprehensive partnership in which the two organizations will jointly focus on a number of projects including youth player development, tournaments, camps and travel exchange programs. In addition to the Press Conference scheduled for December 29th at the Great Park in Irvine, CA, Keisuke Honda and Orange County SC will jointly host clinics each year at the Great Park in Irvine with Keisuke Honda in attendance. Additional details will be provided in the coming weeks.
“We could not be more excited to have the opportunity to join forces with an incredible professional soccer player, philanthropist and human being like Keisuke Honda. Orange County SC and Soltilo share a common vision of the power of soccer to help young men and women reach their full potential on and off the field,” said Orange County SC Owner & President James Keston.
Soltilo is a global organization with ownership stakes in three professional soccer clubs and over 4,000 students in its youth soccer program. The partnership with Orange County Soccer Club will provide Soltilo’s affiliated teams access to a highly competitive youth academy structure and a clear pathway to the USL and beyond to the highest levels of professional soccer around the globe. Orange County Soccer Club has recently hired coaching legend Frans Hoek to oversee all academy operations, and Hoek’s leadership and experience will elevate the youth development program to a level that few clubs can match.
“I’m extremely excited about the new partnership between our organization and Orange County. I’m frequently asked, ‘Why the United States’ and ‘Why now?’ My answer is clear,” said Keisuke Honda. “First, children in the United States have more potential than players in any advanced soccer nation. The United States will become a soccer powerhouse. Second, the United States unfortunately missed their opportunity to play in this World Cup and the next opportunity is 2022. We look at this situation optimistically as an opportunity to develop the youth system with Orange County. There are two projects we would like to accomplish as a first step. First, in order to discover and develop talent, we would like to put on an international tournament at the Great Park. Finally, we would like to create an international exchange and internship program in Orange County. We look forward to making Orange County the international hub for youth development.”
We’ll see how this develops tangibly moving forward, but having additional investment for the team and from a name well known globally in the soccer world doesn’t seem like a bad thing at all. And for Orange County SC, who have made steps to increase their presence but still have room for improvement, this seems like something to increase the profile of the team beyond the immediate locale.
Does this mean Honda will play for Orange County one day, like Didier Drogba has done for the USL team he co-owns, Phoenix Rising FC? We’ll see on that front, but I wouldn’t necessarily rule it out.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!