That is how many days left until the Battery take back to the pitch at Blackbaud Stadium and the start of the 10th Carolina Challenge Cup. If you haven't seen the photos of the field from the Battery's twitter or Facebook feed, it is looking fantastic. Even the practice pitch looks like a putting green.
Last week the Battery finished up the second of two open trials. I had a chance to stop by for the Friday session and noticed a few players that likely will be given a shot at the Battery invite trials happening the week prior to the Carolina Challenge Cup. Three players of note were recent Cuban defectors, Maikel Chang, Heviel Cordoves and goalkeeper, Odisnel Cooper. While I didn't see much of Cooper, both Chang and Cordoves looked good. The three Cubans walked out of their hotel in Canada the day before a World Cup Qualifier between Cuba and Canada in late October before finding their way to the United States and seem to have impressed the Battery.
The next trial is an invite trial which will take place the weekend of February 9. While the list isn't out for this trial, it is typically made up of a few players from each of the Battery's past trials and scouting trips plus a few other players with some experience playing at the professional level. Several of those players will be asked to stay for the Carolina Challenge Cup and will join the Battery players signed for 2013.
That 2013 Battery roster is still kind of in limbo right now. While nothing is confirmed yet it looks like Colin Falvey is returning along with Mark Wiltse and Taylor Mueller. Battery's perinatal Johnny Wilson has been helping with the trials so he looks to be ready for 2013. Nicki Paterson is rumored to be returning but does have a trial with the New York Red Bulls. Jose Cuevas who had a trial in San Jose after the USL season ended is thought to currently be on trial in Seattle. No word on the two African players, Michael Azira and Amadou Sanyang but both would be welcomed back from the quality of their play last season.
Gone for sure are Kyle Hoffer and Tony Donatelli, both to new USL Pro squad VSI Tampa Bay Flames.
Besides the new team in Tampa Bay, Phoenix Wolves will join the LA Blues out west. Both have presented some nice stadium options. Phoenix will expand Arizona States soccer stadium while Tampa has audacious plans to build a phased stadium that will begin with a 6-8,000 modular seat stadium. They have announce plans to start play in 2013 but with less than 90 days until the season begins, they are pressed for time to make that happen.
Those two expansion teams will bring the league up to 13 teams, with all 11 teams from last year returning for 2013 with Pittsburgh Riverhounds lead by former Battery players Jason Kutney and Justin Evans, will open their new 3000+ stadium that looks to be a gem.
Still no official word on the potential MLS/USL partnership but there was an encouraging tweet from the usually accurate IMSoccer that said sources are telling him a deal was reached and should be announce shortly.
The Battery front office have been busy this off-season, hosting several events at Blackbaud. A new Charleston Battery website is set to be launched in early February and the Battery will also introduce a new kit and a new sponsor.
Expect more news and information to begin to leak out as the season fast approaches. See you at the 'Baud for the Carolina Challenge Cup.