Ready or not, the Clovis Sidekicks are moving up a level.
After competing a year on the amateur level, the Sidekicks have been bumped up to semi-pro status as they begin their second year of existence in the Women's Premier Soccer League.
"The competition is going to be tougher, but with the team that we have, we'll be competitive," said Erik Pottorff, promoted from assistant to head coach in the offseason.
The Sidekicks kick off their season with two games this weekend at Clovis North High, playing the Claremont Stars at 1 p.m. Saturday then the Los Al Vikings at 1 p.m. Sunday.
The WPSL's desire to fill the professional void out West is what caused the Sidekicks to move up in competition. During the offseason, all the West Coast clubs of Women's Professional Soccer were shut down and left that league with only six teams, all located in the East.
The Sidekicks will maintain their amateur status so they can continue to build their roster around college players. But now, the Sidekicks will occasionally face teams that can afford to field a roster of paid athletes, such as new club and divisional rival Bay Area Breeze.
"We'll see how that goes. ... The game's going to be more physical this year and they're going to have to be ready," said Pottorff, a former Fresno State soccer player who played on the semi-pro Fresno Dragons in the 1990s.
The Sidekicks finished 6-6 and tied for fourth in the WPSL's Pacific North Division last year. Then, the Sidekicks were simply trying to establish a women's soccer presence in the community under coach Milt Contreras.
Contreras stepped aside from coaching to become the club's CEO and concentrate on promotions and sponsorships in addition to administrative duties.
The Sidekicks return nine players, including forward Anessa Patton, the former Santa Clara and Memorial star. She led the WPSL with 10 goals last season.
Pottorff and his staff sent more than 100 invitations to players who had central San Joaquin Valley ties to assemble the 30-player roster (20 active, 10 practice).
"It's going to be a younger roster than last year," Contreras said. "But we'll contend."