IRVINE — Orange County’s highest tier professional soccer team is on a mission to establish a global talent development system, striking a partnership with former AC Milan striker and Japanese star Keisuke Honda.
The Irvine-based Orange County Soccer Club — which is part of the 31-team United Soccer League and plays at the Orange County Great Park’s new championship stadium — recently announced Honda’s youth soccer program, Soltilo, has become an investor. The two organizations will collaborate on youth player development, tournaments, camps and exchange programs, officials said.
“Soccer is a global game, and having the opportunity to associate with a guy like Keisuke, one of the groundbreaking Asian soccer players … is an incredible honor,” OCSC owner and president James Keston said.
Honda has been “not only spreading the gospel of soccer as a great game that’s fun to watch,” Keston said, “but also seeing soccer as a tool for children to improve their lives.”
Keston declined to discuss the details of the club’s ownership, though he said Soltilo is not the majority owner.
Honda, 31, is one of the most high-profile athletes in Japan with an elevated status comparable to Shohei Ohtani, who recently joined the Los Angeles Angels.
Before Honda joined the Mexican club Pachuca this season, he spent eight years at AC Milan, wearing the No. 10 jersey, and before that, CSKA Moscow. He played for Japan in the 2010 and 2014 World Cups.
Off the field, Honda has conducted soccer camps around the world as a United Nation Foundation’s global advocate for youth.
Soltilo has 5,000 students enrolled in countries such as Japan, China, Cambodia and Australia, and also…