CCC kicks off Saturday in Charleston.

CHARLESTON, SC — The sixth edition of the Carolina Challenge Cup kicks off Saturday night at Blackbaud Stadium with a doubleheader pitting Major League Soccer’s D.C. United and Real Salt Lake, and Toronto FC versus tournament host, the Charleston Battery.

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

In their two prior meetings—both in CCC play—the Battery is 1-1 versus Toronto. Last year the Battery topped the Reds 2-0 behind a brace by Randi Patterson in his Battery debut. In 2007 Toronto topped Charleston 3-0.

The Battery enters the tournament with just a week of preseason training in the books. Fifth-year coach Michael Anhaeuser returns the core of the lineup that overcame two MLS sides to earn a spot in the 2008 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup finals including Dusty Hudock in goal, Nelson Akwari and John Wilson in defense, and Ian Fuller and Stephen Armstrong in the midfield, and Randi Patterson up front.

Though under contract with the Battery, Patterson and Armstrong will not be available for the tournament due to indoor soccer commitments.

New acquisitions to the Battery roster for 2009 include former Carolina RailHawks captain Frankie Sanfilippo, who is expected to compete for a starting spot in the back line. Other signings will be announced once cleared by the league.

Most notably absent from the Battery roster is the midfield lynchpin and USL-1 Rookie of the Year recipient Osvaldo Alonso, who transferred to MLS expansion side Seattle Sounders FC in the offseason.

The tournament will also be used as a testing ground for several trialists brought in to compete for roster spots. Players include former Cuban national teamers Reynier Alcantara and Yenier Bermudez, and J-League veteran Tsuyoshi Yoshitake.

Toronto F.C.
Toronto enters its third consecutive CCC with a considerably stronger roster than in years past. The off-season acquisition of Canadian international Dwayne De Rosario from the Houston Dynamo, along with mid-season signing, Honduran international and 2004 MLS Most Valuable Player Amado Guevara and Welsh international Carl Robinson gives second-year coach John Carver arguably one of the strongest central midfields in MLS.

Also new to the Reds is Canadian international Adrian Serioux from Dallas FC, who will bookend the TFC backline with U.S. international Marvell Wynne.

Along with the scoring threat of De Rosario, Guevara, and fan favorite Danny Dichio, the Reds added some offensive punch with the acquisition of former Argentinean youth international Pablo Vitti, who joins TFC on loan from Independiente of Argentina’s first division.

The Reds come to Charleston following a training stint in Florida where the club faced MLS sides Chicago and New York, Florida Atlantic University, and Swedish first division side BK Hacken. Robinson, De Rosario, and Vitti all tallied in the 3-0 win over the Swedes.

DC United

D.C. United return to the CCC for a fourth time after a two year hiatus from the tournament. Despite the USOC win, 2008 was considered a disappointment for United, which failed to qualify for the post season for the first time since 2002. Of the many off-season moves made by the club, the most glaring was the release of the injury-plagued former Argentinean international Marcelo Gallardo. Gallardo was replaced with fellow countryman Christian Gomez, who earned league MVP honors with United in 2006 before being shipped to Colorado at the beginning of last year to make room for the World Cup veteran.

D.C. returns 2007 Golden Boot winner Luciano Emilio and fellow Brazilian Fred, who each tallied in United’s 2-1 Open Cup final win over Charleston last August, along with former USL-1 standout Clyde Simms, the resurging Santino Quaranta, and 13-year MLS veteran Jamie Moreno.

Real Salt Lake

Real Salt Lake comes to Charleston for the first time. Last season was the most successful in the club’s five-year history, earning a place in the post season for the first time before falling to the New York Red Bulls in the Western Conference final, as well as opening its new ground, Rio Tinto Stadium at the end of the season.

Coach Jason Kreis enters his second full season in charge after leaving the playing ranks to take over the club midway through the 2007 season.

In what was a relatively quiet off-season for the RLS compared to years past, the club signed Colombian defender Jamison Olave to a multi-year contract from Deportivo Cali. Olave came to the club on loan from the Colombian first division side last season and earned a reputation as one of the league’s best center backs. U.S international Kyle Beckerman and journeyman Clint Mathis anchor RSL’s dangerous midfield, with the speedy Robbie Findley and Yura Movsisyan up front.

RSL kicked off preseason training in California where it humbled Chinese club Shandong Leneng Taishan 8-0 before moving to Florida where it most recently fell to Swedish side BK Hacken.

The round robin competition resumes Wednesday, March 11, when United and Toronto square off and the Battery faces RSL, with the final pair of games on Saturday, March 14, with Toronto facing RSL followed by a USOC final rematch between the Battery and D.C. United. Kickoffs are at 5 and 7:15 p.m.

Tickets are available for each doubleheader or the six-match series. Individual day tickets are $25 Club/Box and $15 bleacher. Series tickets are $50 Club/Box and $35 bleacher. Club/Box seats include pub passes.

All 2009 Charleston Battery season ticket holders receive 50 percent discount on Carolina Challenge Cup tickets.

Group discounts are available for groups of 10 or more. Call 843-971-4625 or go to www.charlestonbattery.com to purchase tickets or for more information.

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