Carolina Challenge Cup kicks off this weekend, big name teams headed to town

The seventh edition of the Carolina Challenge Cup kicks off Saturday night at Blackbaud Stadium with a doubleheader pitting Major League Soccer Champions Real Salt Lake against MLS’s most successful franchise DC United, and Toronto FC versus tournament host, the Charleston Battery.

Here's more on the weekend's event:

The round robin format opens with Real Salt Lake facing DC at 5 p.m., followed by the Battery and Toronto at 7:15 p.m.

“The CCC is a fantastic tournament for the Charleston Battery players, fans and community as we will get to see our team up against some of the best Clubs in the MLS in Real Salt Lake, DC United and Toronto FC,” said Battery head coach Mike Anhaeuser.

“We look forward to the challenge and I know our players and fans are ready to see some great soccer action at Blackbaud Stadium.”

The Battery enters the tournament with just a week of preseason training in the books. Sixth-year head coach Michael Anhaeuser has revamped the Battery squad for the 2010 campaign with notable new signings including Brazilian striker Amaury Nunes, and Senegalese midfielder Alioune Gueye.

Anhaeuser also added a pair of Europeans in English midfielder Mark Briggs and Irish defender Colin Falvey plus signed former Atlanta Silverbacks midfielder Josh Bolton. 21 year old Montreal Impact prospect Pierre-Rudolph Mayard joins the Battery on a season-long loan.

Returnees from the Battery’s ’09 squad that fell to Montreal in the USL1 playoffs include defenders Yeniel Bermudez, Nigel Marples, O’Brian Woodbine and Patrick Tate. Goalkeeper Keith Wiggans and forwards Stephen Armstrong and Tom Heinemann also return with veteran defender and Seneca, SC native John Wilson also expected to join the squad in time for the Challenge Cup matches.

Most notably absent from the Battery roster is all-time leading goalkeeper Dusty Hudock who retired after suffering an ACL tear late in the 2009 season. Former College of Charleston goalkeeper Hunter Gilstrap who grew up in Lexington, SC and also attended Clemson University is on trial with the Club and could feature this weekend.

As usual the tournament will also be used as a testing ground for several trialists brought in to compete for roster spots. This year’s crop of prospects include defender Mike Zaher who spent the 2009 season with MLS’s San Jose Earthquakes, Jamaican defender Lance Laing and Virginia Wesleyan College striker Brandon Massie.

Former Wilmington Hammerheads winger, Chris Murray, Rollins College stand-out Jon Gruenewald and recent College of Charleston product Zach Prince will provide some attacking options in midfield.

Forward Levi Coleman who impressed at the recent USL Showcase has been training with the team this week as has former Charleston Battery midfielder Kevin Jackson who was a member of Charleston’s 2003 USL Championship winning side.

Everyone in attendance on Saturday will receive a complimentary Charleston Battery schedule cup courtesy of Blue Water Benefits. Fans can enjoy $2 drafts until kick off in the Battery Beer Garden and children will have access to the Charleston County Parks Fun Zone.

Tickets for the 2010 Carolina Challenge Cup are on sale now with prices frozen at 2009 levels ($15 - $25. Get your tickets by calling (843) 971-4625 or purchasing them online.