England legends Rachel Yankey and Katie Chapman have been confirmed as the first women players to take part in Soccer Aid, competing in the annual charity match for Unicef alongside former male pros and celebrities, with two more female legends also set to join the all-star Rest of the World team in the coming weeks.
Held at Stamford Bridge on Sunday 16 June, match organisers have agreed in partnership with the FA that two 'top tier' women players will feature on each team for the full 90 minutes.
The game will also serve as an ongoing study into mixed adult participation in recreational football, with researchers from Brunel University to monitor proceedings.
David Seaman, Jamie Carragher, Glen Johnson, Jamie Redknapp, Joe Cole and Michael Owen have been announced as ex-professionals for the England squad, which is set to be managed by Sam Allardyce, who will receive assistance from ITV presenter Susanna Reid.
The two female stars in the Rest of the World squad will be confirmed at a later date, but Didier Drogba, Robbie Keane, Robert Pires, Michael Essien and Ricardo Carvalho have already signed up, with a 'host of other international legends' yet to be announced.
Yankey is one of England's most capped players of all time after 129 senior appearances during a 16-year international career that lasted from 1997 to 2013. She famously starred for Arsenal, winning 22 major honours with the Gunners and also played professionally in America.
"I am honoured that Unicef UK have asked me to participate in the match - it's for a great cause. Soccer Aid for Unicef's ambition is to 'defend play for every child' so I will be proud to play my part in doing just that," Yankey said. "I also hope Katie and I can continue to serve as role models to girls around the world to get involved in football."
For Chapman, playing in Soccer Aid at Stamford Bridge will mark a return to Chelsea after finishing her playing career with the club in 2018. The ex-midfielder was a Women's Super League champion and two-time FA Cup winner with Chelsea, while she also previously enjoyed tremendous success with Arsenal as a teammate of Yankey's.
She played 94 times for England between 2000 and 2016 and was part of the Lionesses squads that finished runner-up at Euro 2009 and third at the World Cup in 2015.
"This will be a really interesting match and case study in terms of mixed participation. Having only recently retired it will be great to come back to the Bridge and play in front of a full house match alongside all the household names," Chapman explained.
"It will particularly enjoyable to have my three children in the stands cheering us on. Rachel and I have played together before for club and country so am hoping we will make a telling impact and see England retain the Soccer Aid for Unicef Shield."
FA Head of Women's Football Baroness Sue Campbell said: "These are exciting times for women's football as The FA strives to double participation in the women's game and we are seeing a huge increase in the popularity of the WSL.
"It will be great to showcase women's football as part of Soccer Aid for Unicef ahead of the World Cup in the summer. We are delighted to be able to work with Soccer Aid for Unicef as we continue our research of mixed football.
"This has seen the rules changing in recent years to allow boys and girls to play mixed football together and this match will be part of our continuing research into mixed adult recreational football."
Tickets for England v Soccer Aid World XI, on Sunday 16th June, are on sale now via socceraid.org.uk/tickets/