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Kickin' It 

by Angela Johnson

Soccer fans have a goal to accomplish this June: see a major league game at Joe Albi Stadium.

The Major League Soccer (MLS) team the San Jose Earthquakes will be playing the Seattle Sounders of the United Soccer League's A-League, on Wednesday.

"We are very excited to be bringing a major league event to Joe Albi Stadium," says Bobby Brett, Spokane Shadow soccer team president and owner. "This is great for the Shadow, great for soccer in Spokane and great to see that Joe Albi can attract events of this magnitude."

The San Jose Earthquakes are the top team in the Western Division of MLS. Their team includes Jeff Agoos, a three-time Major League Soccer All-Star, and Landon Donovan, who is considered one of the top American soccer players.

The Seattle Sounders is also a strong team.

"They're in the A-League playoffs every year," says Jeff Robbins, general manager of the Spokane Shadow.

Several Sounders coming to play in the Spokane game are former Shadows, including Chad Brown, Kieran Barton, Mark Hogenhout and Ryan Edwards.

"This game is part of the commitment the Sounders have made to support soccer in the Pacific Northwest," says Brad Kimura, the Sounders general manager.

The two teams have met twice before, each winning one game.

"We are excited to play in Spokane and face the Sounders again," says Chris Chamides, senior director for the San Jose Earthquakes.

One of the reasons this Major League game is coming to Spokane is because of the working relationship between Robbins and the Seattle Sounders. "It's something we've been working on for a number of years," he says.

The San Jose Earthquakes are required to play their affiliate -- the Seattle Sounders -- for exhibition games. This will count as a home game for the Sounders, regardless that it will be played in Spokane.

Although anything can happen, this could be a goal-heavy, exciting match, since the Earthquakes are playing a team that is one division lower than its own. There are four divisions in soccer. After the Major League and A-League divisions, there is the Division 3 Pro League followed by the Premier Development League (which the Shadow plays in).

"Soccer has quite a following in Spokane," says Grant Riddle, director of sponsorships for the Spokane Shadow.

This event is especially exciting for the young soccer players in the area, because it is a great opportunity to see professional soccer players in action, Robbins says.

"There are around 10,000 kids who play soccer in the Spokane area," Robbins says. He adds that soccer is the top participation sport for children under 12.

Riddle calls this major league event "a once in a lifetime experience" and an unbelievable opportunity for youth to see such a high level of talent.

Approximately 1,500 people come to Joe Albi to watch the Shadow each game. The Shadow's goal is to increase the number of games people come to see, which is hard, since there is a lot of competition in the family entertainment field during the summer. Ticket sales response for the game has been good so far, with about 2,000 tickets sold. Robbins hopes this game will attract more people to Joe Albi, which could turn more people on to coming out to see the Shadow, too.

"An MLS team playing in front of Spokane soccer fans is truly a reward for their continued support," Riddle says.

The Seattle Sounders play the San Jose Earthquakes on Wednesday, June 6, at 6:30 pm at Joe Albi Stadium.

Tickets: $14, adults reserved; $10, general admission;

$8, youth, senior and military reserved; $7,

general admission for members of those groups.

Call: 326-GOAL or (800) 325-SEAT.

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