CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The Charlotte women’s soccer team will kick off its 20th season of competition with a trio of home matches, starting at 7 p.m. Friday against Liberty at Transamerica Field. The 49ers will play the three-game stretch over a five-day period, providing Niner Nation with ample opportunities to see the team in action early in the campaign.

“The pitch (Transamerica Field) looks amazing. We went out there and walked it this morning,” head coach John Cullen said. “I think there’s a genuine excitement amongst the players to play three games in such a short amount of time. The weather looks like it’s going to be magic, the field looks fantastic, the players are geared up and the coaching staff is excited. We’re delighted to get going and looking forward to our fans getting behind us from day one and be with us throughout the entire season.”

The 49ers welcome 18 letterwinners and eight starters back from a year ago, when they finished 10-8-2 overall and 4-4-1 in the Atlantic 10. This fall, Charlotte returns to Conference USA, a league in which it was a charter member and served as a springboard for conference tournament titles in 1995 and 1998 and league regular-season crowns in 1997 and 2002.

Cullen, the program’s fourth head coach, enters the campaign with 49 victories during his four seasons in the Queen City. Overall, the 49ers have played 397 matches during their first 19 years.

Charlotte is spending 2013 celebrating the program’s 20th season. The first Niners squad to take the field in 1994 posted a 13-4-2 record and started the campaign with a 5-0 triumph at Liberty, Sept. 3. It marks the only previous meeting between the two schools prior to Friday’s match.

Liberty, also playing in its season opener Friday, is led by sixth-year head coach Jessica Hain. The Flames, who earned an 11-7-3 mark last fall, were picked seventh in the preseason Big South poll this week.

The 49ers homestand then continues with a 1 p.m. Sunday meeting with UNC Wilmington. Charlotte faces the Seahawks for the fourth-straight season and owns a 5-3 all-time series lead. The Niners are 4-1 against UNCW at home.

UNC Wilmington starts its year at South Carolina Friday night before arriving in Charlotte. The Seahawks, under the direction of 18th-year head coach Paul Cairney, were picked third in the preseason Colonial Athletic Association poll after a 12-7-3 record in 2012.

The final contest of the homestand will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday when the 49ers play host to Gardner-Webb. The Runnin’ Bulldogs were selected to finish 10th in the preseason Big South rankings. Kevin Mounce opens his 15th campaign with the program this fall after guiding the program to a 3-14-1 record last season.

Despite the proximity in location, with Gardner-Webb claiming Shelby, N.C., as its home base, Tuesday’s match will be the first between the two programs in women’s soccer. The Runnin’ Bulldogs play host to North Florida Friday night in their opener.

Charlotte fans can follow the action via webstream on In addition, live stats through the website will be operational and updates will also be provided on Twitter. Follow @49erGameDay for in-game Twitter updates.

Also, special 20th season anniversary t-shirts will be distributed while supplies last to fans in attendance.