For the third year in a row, the Charleston Battery will host FC Cincinnati in their first league match of the year, as confirmed by a list of Home Openers released by the league.
This comes after the announcements of conference realignments in the league as they welcome six new teams. Four new sides, Fresno FC, Las Vegas Lights FC, Nashville FC and Atlanta United 2, which effectively ends the Battery’s two year affiliation with the club. Two former NASL sides have also joined, North Carolina FC opening the door for a new rivalry for the Battery, and Indy Eleven.
On the other side of the coin, however, three teams will not be returning in the new year. Orlando City B and the Rochester Rhinos are taking a hiatus in 2018, while the Vancouver Whitecaps II have folded. Additionally, the Harrisburg City Islanders have rebranded and become Penn FC, in affiliation with the Rush Soccer group.
The full USL schedule has yet to be announced, but round three of the Battery-Cincy opener clash will this year be highlighted by the returns of Forrest Lasso, who joined FC Cincy in the offseason, and Tommy Heinemann, who won the league with the Battery in 2010 and has spent time after that in both MLS and NASL, coming off a title winning season with the San Francisco Deltas, where he scored a goal in the Final to help the Deltas to glory in their first and only season in the league.
Like the Battery, Cincy will be without several key players from last year in Harrison Delbridge, Andrew Wiedeman, Djibi Fall, Mitch Hildebrandt, Austin Berry and Paul Nicholson. but have kept a strong core and added other key pieces.
The two previous openers between the sides have featured really good games, and tight ones at that, and with the added storyline of two players returning to their former home, this promises to be another interesting prospect.
The Charleston Battery open their 2018 season at home to FC Cincinnati on March 17th.
TOP IMAGE: FORREST LASSO (NOW OF FC CINCINNATI) CHALLENGES FOR A HEADER IN LAST YEAR’S OPENER. PHOTO CREDIT ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY