CHICAGO — Marco Franco, the 13th overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft after his senior season at UC Irvine, was signed by the Chicago Fire as a defender on Tuesday.

Franco, 22, the Big West Conference Defender of the Year in 2013 when he helped the Anteaters win the conference title and a berth in the NCAA round of 16, earned the contract after showing well in preseason games for the Fire.

Chicago opens its regular season on March 9 against Chivas USA at the StubHub Center in Carson.

"Marco is an athletic, solid player and will add depth to our backline heading into the 2014 season," Chicago Fire Coach and Director of Soccer Frank Yallop said in a team release. "From his performance at the combine and throughout preseason, we hare hoping Marco can transition from the collegiate level to the professional game."

— From staff reports