If you think Columbus Crew SC built the first-ever soccer-specific stadium in the United States, well, the Charleston Battery has something to say about that. Literally.
The Battery opened what was then known as Blackbaud Stadium in April 1999 as “the first privately funded soccer-specific stadium constructed in the United States during the modern era.” Crew Stadium (now MAPFRE Stadium) opened in Columbus a few weeks later. Now known as MUSC Health Stadium, this gem on the luxurious Daniel Island sits on the outskirts of this coastal South Carolina town and has an intimate feel with 5,100 seats. The club has called it home for three of its four professional championship runs, and the annual Carolina Challenge Cup at the stadium remains a fixture of Major League Soccer’s preseason.
The stadium itself received some needed upgrades along the way to keep with the times, and the solar panels behind one of the goals add a nice green touch to the bright yellow stands.
But the true must-see here is The Three Lions Club, the best in-stadium soccer pub in the country (Avaya Stadium’s outdoor mega-bar be damned). The 5,000-square-foot English-style pub has a full-service bar and kitchen where you can rub elbows with players and coaches postgame or watch the Premier League early on a Saturday morning. And it features what is arguably the best collection of soccer memorabilia in the country -- particularly with the National Soccer Hall of Fame’s artifacts still sitting in storage.