Photo courtesy Charleston Battery
CHARLESTON, S.C. – The 2017 Carolina Challenge Cup kicks off on Saturday night at MUSC Health Stadium as the USL’s Charleston Battery welcome Major League Soccer’s Seattle Sounders FC, Columbus Crew SC and 2017 expansion side Atlanta United FC to the historic preseason tournament.
Charleston Battery vs. Seattle Sounders FC
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET | Tickets: http://bit.ly/2lTG5mA
Charleston kicks off the 13th edition of the tournament with a daunting matchup against the defending MLS Cup champion Seattle Sounders FC. The Battery have returned a good core from last season’s Eastern Conference Semifinal squad, and have taken two wins from two against the College of Charleston and University of South Carolina to start the preseason, but Saturday’s game will provide a much sterner test for the side.
Seattle made its preseason debut two weeks ago against Cascadia rival the Portland Timbers as the teams played to a 1-1 draw in the Desert Friendlies hosted by the PDL’s FC Tucson. New addition Harry Shipp scored from the penalty spot to level the score in the second half for the Sounders, but the most notable storyline was the 30-minute stint by U.S. international Clint Dempsey, his first action since a diagnosis last August of an irregular heartbeat. Dempsey and fellow U.S. internationals Jordan Morris and Chad Marshall bring marquee names to the Low Country as the Sounders visit the CCC for the second time.
Player to Watch: Osvaldo Alonso, Seattle Sounders FC
The former Charleston Battery midfielder makes his second return to the stadium where he earned the 2008 USL Rookie of the Year award, which launched the Cuban’s career after defecting to the U.S. and saw him make the move with the Sounders to MLS the following season. Alonso sat out Seattle’s game with Portland two weeks ago, and will likely be keen to make his season debut in front of the fans who still hold a major place in their hearts for him in Charleston.
Atlanta United FC vs. Columbus Crew SC
Kickoff: 4:30 p.m. ET | Tickets: http://bit.ly/2lTG5mA
MLS newcomer Atlanta will look to build on an impressive outing last Saturday that saw United take a 4-0 victory against Chattanooga FC in front of a crowd of 12,484 at Finley Field that saw numerous fans make the trip from Georgia to see the club’s first preseason contest. Among the goal-scorers was U.S. U17 International Andrew Carleton, who spent time on loan with the Battery last season through the partnership between the two clubs.
Columbus, meanwhile, has yet to see action yet this preseason, and returns to the CCC for the fourth time in its history looking to set the table for a bounce-back season in MLS. The first winner of the tournament back in 2004, the Crew most recently competed in Charleston in 2012, and bring a squad that includes 2016 MLS Best XI selection Ethan Finlay and attacking midfielder Federico Higuain.
Player to Watch: Greg Garza, Atlanta United FC
Garza recently made his return to the U.S. Men’s National Team at the recent January camp, and kicks off Atlanta’s inaugural season looking to make a big return to action. With the likes of Michael Parkhurst and Tyrone Mears accompanying him in the Atlanta back line, Garza’s potential matchup with Columbus’ Justin Meram should prove interesting.