Brandi Chastain, the former World Cup soccer star, will help introduce Women's Premier Soccer League to the central San Joaquin Valley.
Chastain will play against WPSL's newest team, the Clovis Sidekicks, in their debut match at 6 p.m. today at Clovis North High.
Chastain, best known for pulling off her jersey to celebrate scoring the winning goal for the U.S. in the 1999 World Cup championship, plays for the California Storm.
"We're really excited to get the season going and our team established," Sidekicks coach Milt Contreras said. "This league, this team, gives our female athletes an opportunity to continue playing after college and stay local."
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
With the creation of the Sidekicks, the WPSL has expanded to 55 teams.
The Sidekicks compete in the seven-team Pacific North Division, which also includes the California Storm.
About 62 players tried out for the Sidekicks, some coming as far as San Jose. The team has 28 players on its roster, mostly current college and ex-college players. Included are three Fresno State players: Nicole Duff, Alex Jensen and Katie Lee.
Koleen Anderson and Susan Negrete are former Bulldogs players. Nikki Schrey is formerly of Cal and Edison High.
And Kacey Held was The Fresno Bee's Player of the Year this past season. Held wrapped up her senior year at Buchanan by scoring 34 goals and 30 assists to lead the Bears to their fifth straight Central Section title. Held will play at Cal Poly next season.
The WPSL is considered just below Women's Professional Soccer, which is the highest level of women's soccer in the United States.
"You'll see, this team will make a difference in the female soccer community here -- from the higher level to the youth level," Contreras said. "We can't wait to see how we do against Brandi Chastain and her team."