When veteran defender John Wilson first heard that an English Premier League team might be coming to Charleston to play the Battery, his initial reaction was "it's about time."
The Charleston Battery will take on the Bolton Wanderers in an exhibition match July 17 at Blackbaud Stadium, the club officially announced Thursday. The Wanderers will be the first English Premier League team to face the Battery in the club's 17-year history.
The EPL is widely considered the top professional soccer league in the world.
"Honestly, I think this should have happened a long time ago," said Wilson, who first played for the Battery in 1999. "We've had national teams play here, we've had (Major League Soccer) teams play here, and (English club) Sunderland played here a few years back.
"A lot of Premier League teams come over in the summer to start their preseason training, so I was confident the Battery would get a match eventually. This is a great club with fantastic facilities and Charleston is a great city to visit. I don't think Bolton will be the last Premier League team to play here."
For Battery defender Colin Falvey, a native of Cook City, Ireland, the match is a chance to see how he matches up against some of the world's best players.
"As a player you always want to play against the best competition, so this is a great opportunity for me and the rest of the guys on the team," Falvey said.
"I was a big fan of Newcastle growing up and they are one of Bolton's biggest rivals, so I'm familiar with them. I played against their academy team when I was growing up in England."
Stephen Armstrong, whose family lives in Liverpool, England, was shocked to hear the news.
"You don't really expect to get that kind of game in the middle of the season, but I think everyone around here is thrilled," Armstrong said. "To get a chance to play against a team from what I consider to be the best league in the world is exciting. I've followed the Premier League my whole life, so I know a lot about the club and their players. It'll be a huge challenge for us."
Charleston coach Mike Anhaeuser said there have been several EPL teams over the years that have wanted to come to Charleston.
"We had Sunderland come here a few years ago and then we've had teams make inquiries over the years about coming over," Anhaeuser said. "I think it shows that even teams from the top league in the world like coming over to America and playing against good competition. I think it shows you the kind of reputation the Battery and Blackbaud Stadium has around the country."