KIDDERMINSTER Lions FC have forged groundbreaking links with a professional youth team in the USA.

The Lions are hoping to build on the success and interest of the recent Women's World Cup to boost girls' football in the region.

That task has been boosted by a new relationship Orlando City Youth Soccer Club based in Florida.

The American club is led by Laura Halfpenny, who was raised in Bewdley and played football locally until moving to the States to further her football career.

Halfpenny contacted the Kidderminster Lions' girls under-8s team through social media whilst they were fundraising for new equipment.

Her local connection and desire to give something back to grassroots football where she grew up was met with excitement and gratitude by the coaches of the Kidderminster Lions.

She has since met with the club's management committee and coaches to share her expertise of growing Orlando City's youth side into a thriving community club

Halfpenny said “The purpose of the connection is for our club to explore ways in which the two clubs can mutually benefit each other and develop.

"We can share our resources and facilitate things that can improve Kidderminster Lions and make it better, and even more of a community club. I reached out through social media because I really wanted to give something back to grassroots football where I grew up, as playing football has had such a positive impact on my life.”

Orlando City Youth Soccer Club is part of the Major League Soccer team Orlando City, with players that include former Manchester United player Nani, six-time women's world player of the year and Brazilian legend Marta and USA star Alex Morgan.

Halfpenny joined Kidderminster Lions Girls under-8s and under-13s for a training session on Saturday, June 28, introducing the Lionesses to some soccer skills from the States.

She shared with the girls her own inspirational story of her journey from playing football outside her house in Bewdley growing up, to joining a boys’ team before being spotted by a coach offering her the opportunity to play at college in the USA whilst furthering her education.

Lions' under-8s coach Chris Evans said: "This is a really unique and inspiring opportunity for our young girls. Some have been playing football less than a year, and their progress as footballers, team players and confident youngsters is a joy to be part of.

"Having Laura’s involvement and expertise as part of our club will be so beneficial to our development as a club and a team. Girls football is growing rapidly in this country and it is vital that we focus not only on the football skills on the pitch but on the development of the community of Kidderminster Lions as a place to play football, make friends and develop life-long leadership and teamwork skills.’’

For more information about joining Kidderminster Lions, contact Sue Oliver on 07884074061.