It’s been a long time since supporters have watched a Columbus Crew match. Since the team’s Nov. 7, 2021, victory against the Chicago Fire, the Crew has played on the field in preseason but without a way for supporters to tune in. That’s changing starting this weekend with the Carolina Challenge Cup. Wednesday, the Black & Gold announced that all three matches of the tournament will air live on the Crew’s website for free to viewers within the club’s local broadcast territory.
The action begins Saturday at 1 p.m. ET when Columbus faces Inter Miami FC. The Crew has already faced Miami this preseason during the club’s start time in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. That match was behind closed doors, but the Black & Gold won 4-1, followed by a 4-0 victory against the Grenada National Team. Head Coach Caleb Porter claimed that the matches “didn’t challenge” his team as much as this upcoming preseason tournament should.
Columbus follows Saturday’s game with a match against Major League Soccer expansion side Charlotte FC on Tuesday, Feb. 15 at 5 p.m. ET. This will be the third time in the past four Carolina Challenge Cups that the Crew faces an expansion. In 2017, the Black & Gold beat Atlanta United 2-1 followed by a 3-0 walloping of FC Cincinnati during the 2019 preseason. Charlotte FC gives Columbus the chance to make it three straight against new MLS teams in this tournament.
The Carolina Challenge Cup culminates with a matchup against USL Championship side Charleston Battery on Friday, Feb. 18 at 8 p.m. ET. That final game has a Crew connection, as former Black & Gold forward Connor Casey is the Battery’s head coach.
Columbus’ history in the Carolina Challenge Cup runs deep. The Black & Gold have taken part in the tournament seven times since it began in 2004. Since its founding, the Crew is tied with MLS rival D.C. United for the most tournament championships (4). While there was no tournament the past two years, Columbus won the three prior editions from 2017-2019. The tournament champion is decided by most points in the standings following three matches.
While trophies are always on the mind of Porter and the Black & Gold, this tournament gives the Crew the chance to integrate new talent into the lineup. Columbus confirmed the arrival of new signing Yaw Yeboah to Charleston, but center back Milos Degenek and midfielder James Igbekeme are both slated to join the team for the tournament. The Black & Gold hope these additions will help to correct a poor 2021 season that found the 2020 MLS Cup-winning Crew miss the playoffs and a chance to regain the title.
Porter and the Black & Gold did have a preseason friendly scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 5, against Louisville City FC of the USL Championship, but it was canceled due to a snowstorm stretching across the Midwest. The team instead played a intra-squad scrimmage at the OhioHealth Performance Center. Saturday’s match will be the Crew’s first friendly since returning to Columbus on Jan. 28.
After the tournament, the Black & Gold returns to Columbus in preparation for the Feb. 26 home opener against the Vancouver Whitecaps, at Lower.com Field.