Carolina Challenge Cup

Who: Chicago Fire vs. Houston Dynamo, 5 p.m.

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Charleston Battery, 7:15 p.m.

Where: Blackbaud Stadium

Tickets: 971-4625

Nicki Paterson has won a USL Pro Division title and played in the U.S. Open Cup for the Charleston Battery.

But Paterson, who enters his third season with the club, has never played in a Carolina Challenge Cup match.

The talented Scottish midfielder will get that opportunity tonight when the Battery will face Major League Soccer’s Vancouver Whitecaps beginning at 7:15 p.m. at Blackbaud Stadium. The 10th Carolina Challenge Cup will open with Houston taking on Chicago at 5 p.m.

As of Friday night, there were less than 400 tickets remaining for tonight’s match.

The last two years that Paterson has been with Battery, he missed the week-long tournament because of immigration issues or because he was finishing up his season in New Zealand.

“I’m excited to finally get a chance to play in the Carolina Cup,” said Paterson, who led the Battery with 12 goals a season ago. “I’ve heard a lot about the tournament and obviously any time you can play against teams from the MLS it’s exciting. We haven’t won it yet, so hopefully we can start the year by adding another cup to our trophy case.”

After helping lead the Battery to the club’s fourth title last summer, Paterson was loaned to the MLS’ New York Red Bulls. Paterson spent a month with the Red Bulls honing his skills and playing in two reserve games, recording an assist in each match.

“They were watching me every second and I kind of liked that,” Paterson said. “Your touch had to be really sharp and you had to be switched on all the time. It kind of forces you to be focused all the time and I could see myself improving every day. I feel like the month I spent in New York was the best month I’ve had as a pro.”

Paterson was able to work with and against one of the top strikers in the world in New York forward Thierry Henry. Henry, who won a World Cup title with France in 1998, played for two of Europe’s most elite soccer clubs in Arsenal, of the English Premier League, and Barcelona. Paterson said he had a couple of one-on-one sessions against Henry during his time in New York.

“The guy is a magician,” Paterson said. “Even at 35, he still is really, really quick and he’s so sharp mentally. We worked out one-on-one a few times and he that was a huge help. I got along with him very well.”

For the first time in several years, Paterson did not play in the offseason. He spent most of the offseason back home in Scotland. Paterson also got engaged to his longtime girlfriend Cheryl McSeveny.

“I’ve playing year round for the past few years, but we’d just won a championship and I had to go to a couple of family weddings,” Paterson said. “The month I spent in New York took a lot out of me and I just wanted to go home and rest for a few months. This is the best I’ve felt in a long, long time coming into a season.”

Paterson spent the last month training with the Red Bulls, but was released last week to join the Battery.

“It’s very difficult to get an international spot in the MLS,” Paterson said. “They tend to give those to established players from Europe or South America. I think they liked me and had good things to say about me. It was a good experience. I got myself sharp and that can only help my season here.”