The Fresno Fuego kicks off their 2015 campaign with the first exhibition of the preseason at 2 p.m. Sunday, taking on division rival San Jose.
The match will be played at Buchanan High on the varsity field next to Veterans Memorial Stadium. Admission is free.
The Earthquakes’ Premier Development League club beat Fresno twice last season and with 26 points finished two ahead of Fuego in the PDL’s Southwest Division. The Fuego finished fourth in the division at 6-7-1 and also reached the third round of the U.S. Open Cup, where they lost 6-0 to first-year USL PRO club Sacramento Republic FC.
Fresno is entering its 13th season in the PDL and last weekend continued to see signs of growing popularity. More than 100 players showed up to try out for a spot on the squad at the club’s annual winter combine.
The Fuego is expected to announce the rest of its preseason schedule Wednesday. The 14-match PDL regular season begins May 3.
In other preseason news, the Central California Cup — which brought San Jose’s Major League Soccer clubs and the MLS’s Los Angeles Galaxy to Chukchansi Park last February — will be taking a year off, according to Fuego General Manager Jeremy Schultz. Los Angeles beat San Jose 2-1 in last year’s match.
The 2015 edition of the Cup was scheduled for Feb. 21, but became a no-go after the Galaxy opted for a preseason match that same date in Ireland, the home country of forward and 2014 MLS Most Valuable Player Robbie Keane.
Fan group launched
A new booster club sprouted this winter for the Fuego.
The group, calling itself Fire Squad Fresno, started as a collective effort among other soccer supporter clubs in town, including the Fresno Gooners and American Outlaws Fresno.
The group planned to be out recruiting members at Sunday’s exhibition.