SANDY, Utah / CHARLESTON, So. Car. - 2009 Major League Soccer champion Real Salt Lake announced today that the Utah side will return to Charleston this March to compete in the 2010 edition of the Charleston Battery's preseason tournament, the Carolina Challenge Cup. RSL won the Carolina Challenge Cup in March 2009, posting a spotless 3-0-0 mark with a 3-0 win over D.C. United and 2-1 scorelines over host Charleston and Toronto FC en route to its MLS Cup-winning 2009 campaign. The exact same four teams comprise the 2010 Carolina Challenge Cup schedule.
"Real Salt Lake looks forward to returning to Charleston for the 2010 Carolina Challenge Cup due to the first-rate manner in which the tournament is run by the Battery and its partners," said RSL Head Coach Jason Kreis, who at age 36 became the youngest Cup-winning manager in MLS history. "I truly believe that the winner of the preseason competition has gone on to win five of the last six MLS Cups or Supporters Shields because the Charleston environment breeds all elements of success: quality competition, intense training and camaraderie amongst the team."
Real Salt Lake will once again be joined by fellow Major League Soccer sides D.C. United and Toronto FC in Charleston, each of whom make return visits to the tournament. It will be D.C.'s fifth appearance in the Carolina Challenge Cup and Toronto's fourth. This is the seventh consecutive year that the host Battery has seen its preseason tournament featuring Major League Soccer. RSL will call South Carolina home from March 5-21, while the remainder of the team's 2010 preseason will be announced in the near future.
The Carolina Challenge Cup competition format will remain unchanged in 2010, with three doubleheader match days at Blackbaud Stadium on Sat., March 13; Wed., March 17; and Sat., March 20; with each team facing the others in the round-robin tournament.
Carolina Challenge Cup and MLS success
A remarkable correlation exists between preseason success in the Carolina Challenge Cup and Major League Soccer hardware. With the exception of 2008, the winner of the Carolina Challenge Cup from 2004-09 has gone on to win either that season's MLS Supporters Shield (regular season champions) or MLS Cup. This tradition continued in 2009, as Real Salt Lake won its first MLS Cup by defeating the Los Angeles Galaxy in a penalty-shootout.
In 2008, two of that year's CCC participants nearly won a major trophy, as the Charleston Battery lost to D.C. United in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final, while the New York Red Bulls lost to the Columbus Crew in that year's MLS Cup.
Carolina Challenge Cup - All-Time History
The Carolina Challenge Cup started back in 2004 as an expanded preseason tournament, following several years where the Battery would host individual Major League Soccer teams prior to the start of the season. The first year also featured the then-reigning USL2 champion Wilmington Hammerheads, with games held simultaneously in Wilmington, NC, and at Blackbaud Stadium on Daniel Island. The CCC is now regarded as the premier preseason tournament in the United States.
All-Time Participants (CCC champions in bold)
2004: Charleston Battery (USL), Columbus Crew (MLS), D.C. United (MLS), Wilmington Hammerheads (USL)
2005: Charleston Battery (USL), Columbus Crew (MLS), D.C. United (MLS), San Jose Earthquakes (MLS)
2006: Charleston Battery (USL), New York Red Bulls (MLS), D.C. United (MLS), Houston Dynamo (MLS) 2007: Charleston Battery (USL), New York Red Bulls (MLS), Houston Dynamo (MLS), Toronto FC (MLS)
2008: Charleston Battery (USL), New York Red Bulls (MLS), San Jose Earthquakes (MLSToronto FC (MLS)
2009: Charleston Battery (USL), D.C. United (MLS), Real Salt Lake (MLS), Toronto FC (MLS)
2010: Charleston Battery (USL), D.C. United (MLS), Real Salt Lake (MLS), Toronto FC (MLS)
Carolina Challenge Cup Tickets
Tickets for the 2010 Carolina Challenge Cup are on sale now, with prices frozen at 2009 levels. Fans can purchase tickets for each doubleheader or for the six-match series. Tickets for single doubleheaders (includes two games) are priced at $25 Club/Box & just $15 in bleacher sections, while series tickets (includes all three double-headers) cost $50 for Club / Box seats and $35 for Bleachers. Discounted rates are available for groups of 10 or more. To purchase tickets, or for more information, please call (843) 971-4625 or visit www.charlestonbattery.com.
ABOUT THE 2010 CAROLINA CHALLENGE CUP TEAMS:
Real Salt Lake (MLS)
Real Salt Lake was the last team to qualify for the MLS playoffs in 2009 and did so as the eighth overall seed, but as the fifth-place finisher in the Western Conference, the club was moved to the Eastern bracket. RSL defeated the defending champion Columbus Crew 4-2 on aggregate, and then won the East Final in Chicago by downing Cuauhtémoc Blanco and the Fire on penalty kicks after a 0-0 draw in regulation.
Real Salt Lake went on to defeat the Los Angeles Galaxy, featuring David Beckham and Landon Donovan, in MLS Cup 2009 on November 22 at Qwest Field in Seattle. After falling behind 0-1 just before halftime on a Mike Magee goal that featured assists from both Beckham and Donovan, RSL's Robbie Findley equalized in the 64th minute. RSL and the Galaxy remained knotted at 1-1 through both overtime periods, ultimately prevailing 5-4 on penalty kicks to complete the upset and hoist the five-year old organization's first Cup title. The win automatically qualifies Real Salt Lake into the group stage of CONCACAF Champions League in 2010-2011.
Led by third-year Head Coach Jason Kreis, RSL earned its first-ever postseason appearance in 2008, advancing to the West Finals, before capturing MLS Cup 2009. Kreis has won 4 of 5 playoff series under Kreis' guidance, and he has developed RSL into one of the most dominant home teams in MLS, going 17-2-11 in Utah over the last two seasons.
Real Salt Lake's roster includes two players who have a chance to earn a spot on the U.S. Men's National Team roster for next summer's FIFA World Cup in South Africa. RSL midfielder Kyle Beckerman has made 10 appearances for the U.S. - including five caps in last Summer's CONCACAF Gold Cup - and RSL forward Robbie Findley was a part of the USA's squad last August for critical qualifiers against El Salvador and Trinidad & Tobago.
D.C. United (MLS)
United returns to the Carolina Challenge Cup for a fifth appearance; D.C. participated from 2004 - 2006 and again in 2009, but has yet to lift the trophy.
The Battery's rivalry with D.C. United extends back to 1999 when Charleston ousted United from that year's U.S. Open Cup in a third-round meeting. More recently, the two sides met in the final of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in 2008, with D.C. defeating the Charleston Battery by a 2-1 scoreline. United returned to the Open Cup Final in 2009, but were edged by expansion MLS side Seattle Sounders FC.
D.C. United is the most successful professional soccer organization in the United States. United is a four-time MLS Cup Champion (1996, 1997, 1999 and 2004) and winners of the 1996 and 2008 U.S. Open Cup, the 1998 CONCACAF Champions Cup, the 1998 InterAmerican Cup and the 1997, 1999, 2006 and 2007 MLS Supporters Shields.
Toronto FC (MLS)
For the fourth consecutive year, TFC will visit Charleston for its preseason. After joining MLS in 2007, Toronto enjoyed yet another stellar year at the turnstiles that 15 consecutive regular-season sellouts at its BMO Field home. Toronto FC just missed the MLS postseason, finishing in the 5th position in the Eastern standings, one point outside the playoffs.
Toronto signed its first designated player towards the end of the 2009 season, inking Canadian national team midfielder Julian DeGuzman to a three-year contract. DeGuzman has played 42 times for Canada and arrived in Toronto from Spanish La Liga side Deportivo La Coruña.
Toronto have also made a coaching change during the offseason, bringing in 2007 MLS Coach of the Year, Preki. Preki spent the last three seasons as the head coach with Chivas USA. Preki was the only player to be awarded the MLS MVP Award and the MLS Scoring Champion twice, winning both in 1997 and 2003. He still holds the record for all-time league leader in points scored (270 on 79 goals and 112 assists, plus an additional 25 points on 10 goals and 5 assists in the playoffs). Preki played his last competitive game at the age of 42.
Charleston Battery (USL-2)
The Charleston Battery enters its 18th year as a pro soccer Club in 2010 and will play in the USL Second Division, joining a league of stable franchises that have been a part of USL for many years - Richmond Kickers (since 1993), Charlotte Eagles (1993), Pittsburgh Riverhounds (1999), Harrisburg City Islanders (2004) and Real Maryland Monarchs (2008). The Battery will play a 20-game regular season schedule beginning mid-April, with the season running through the end of August. The Charleston Battery will once again host its pre-season tournament the Carolina Challenge Cup featuring Major League Soccer in March and will also enter US Soccer's Lamar Hunt US Open Cup (dates TBD).
In 1999, the Battery moved to its current home Blackbaud Stadium, the first privately-financed soccer specific stadium in the United States. The Charleston Battery has won two USL Championships (1996, 2003), and in 2008 advanced to the final of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, losing 2-1 to Major League Soccer's DC United.
In 2009, the Charleston Battery finished fourth in the USL First Division but lost in the first round of the playoffs to the eventual Champions, the Montreal Impact. The Battery is led by sixth-year head coach and former Charleston midfielder Mike Anhaeuser, who joined the Battery as a player in 1994.
Real Salt Lake opens the home portion of its 2010 MLS slate on Saturday, April 10, when the Claret-and-Cobalt will play host to Seattle Sounders FC at Rio Tinto Stadium for a 7:00 p.m. MT kickoff. Seats for the April 10 home opener in Sandy - which will include the raising of the first-ever championship banner at Rio Tinto Stadium and the issuance of RSL's championship rings - are currently available via one of two options:
The limited-time "Championship Pack" offer, which includes two North Goal section tickets to the home opener v. Seattle, two North Goal section tickets to either RSL's second or third home contest (opponents TBA), and an RSL mini-ball autographed by the 2009 MLS Cup championship squad, all for just $65. The Championship Pack deal, which offers a savings of $35 off the retail price, is available only through the Holiday season, with the offer expiring on Thursday, Dec. 31.
The 2010 Real Salt Lake Season Ticket package, which includes tickets to the April 10 home opener and all of RSL's other 14 regular season affairs, in addition to five ticket vouchers for exhibition and Cup competitions, including the Utah side's first appearance in the CONCACAF Champions League. Followers of the Claret-and-Cobalt can become an RSL "Fan for Life" for as little as $275, with payment plans available for those fans that want to stretch their dollars during the Holiday season and beyond.
Fans wanting to take advantage of either of these offers can contact the Real Salt Lake Front Office at 801-727-2700 or visit RealSaltLake.com or RioTintoStadium.com for more details, including the full list of 2010 RSL Season Ticket Holder benefits.
RSL's 2009 MLS Cup title defense kicks off on Saturday, March 27, at the San Jose Earthquakes, with kickoff from Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. set for 7:00 p.m. MT. (TV TBA). Five days later, reigning champion RSL heads to Texas to face the 2006 and 2007 MLS Cup champion Houston Dynamo in its home opener at Robertson Stadium on the campus of the University of Houston on Thursday, April 1. The first of two contests next season between the heated Western Conference combatants is set for a 7:00 p.m. MT kickoff, with the contest airing live nationwide on ESPN2.