Chestley Strother continues to climb up the soccer ladder.
The Whitehouse native and former UT Tyler standout has taken another big step in her career, signing with the Utah Royals FC of the National Women’s Soccer League.
“I wanted to have a solid contract in the NWSL, so I had to do whatever I could, which took me to Iceland and Sweden for a few years,” Strother, a midfielder, said. “I had to go over there to compete and get better every year, and I had a solid three years there. I’ve always wanted a roster spot here, and now that I have it, it’s time to continue to compete and get better.”
Utah general manager Stephanie Lee was elated on signing Strother.
“Chestley has spent the last few years developing in Sweden and we are excited to have her in Utah bringing some height and athleticism to our midfield,” Lee said of the 5-9 Strother.
Strother started her professional career in 2016, signing an amateur contract as a reserve player for the NWSL’s Houston Dash. She played that season with FC Dallas of the Women’s Professional Soccer League (WPSL), earning WPSL All-Star honors after scoring a team-high 10 goals with four assists for the first-year WPSL franchise. She spent the 2017 season in Iceland with UMF Sindri, scoring 11 goals with six assists in 18 games, and she spent the last two seasons in Sweden, playing for Kvarnsveden IK in 2018 and Sundsvall DFF in 2019.
“Playing overseas has really helped me learn the game,” the 25-year-old Strother said. “Playing soccer for another country with another style is completely different, so now I’m able to bring that style back with me to the U.S. It’s allowed me to grow and add another wrinkle to what I already know is a huge improvement for me. In Europe, soccer is much more tactical. Americans are fast, strong, and hard-working, and the game here is very athletic, but over there it’s more of a mind game.”
In her four-year career at UT Tyler, Strother had 32 assists, 27 goals, 276 shots and 86 points in 74 games for the Patriots.
Strother was a three-time all-region selection who helped lead the Patriots to consecutive NCAA Division III national tournament appearances in 2014 and 2015. She earned NCAA Division III All-America selections (NSCAA & d3soccer.com) following an outstanding 2015 senior season after she helped lead UT Tyler to program-records for most wins (17) and highest winning percentage (.900) in a season.
“Ultimately what brought me to UT Tyler was playing for Stefani (UT Tyler Coach Webb),” Strother said. “She allowed me to grow throughout those four years, and by the time I hit my senior year, I was starting to get where I needed to be. She always pushed me through the highs and the lows, and I couldn’t be more thankful for the program here. UT Tyler is where I learned how to be ready to work hard every day. Soccer is my sole focus, and this is where I learned my culture and how I want to be as a teammate, leader and player.”
Webb is one Strother’s biggest fans.
“I’ve been blessed to be a part of Chestley’s journey for a very long time, starting when she was a little girl training out here in Tyler, to becoming a student-athlete at UT Tyler, and now as a professional soccer player in the NWSL,” Webb said. “It has been an unbelievable journey, and it has been such an honor to be a part of it and be able to watch her grow into the player and woman she has become.
“Chestley works so hard and is never satisfied with where she is; she is always striving to get better, and I think that is what sets her apart. She does more work when no one is watching than any kid I have ever coached, and it makes me so proud for this day to finally come for her. She is a testament to the women we develop in this program, and I could not be more excited for her.”
Utah Royals FC is preparing for the start of its third season in the National Women’s Soccer League. The club narrowly missed the postseason in each of its first two seasons and was second in the league in attendance both years.
The Royals play at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, located about 15 minutes from downtown Salt Lake City. It is the same stadium where Real Salt Lake of the men’s Major League Soccer plays.