Durham defender Jennifer King hopes her team and Sunderland's presence in Women's Super League 2 can help generate interest in the sport throughout the north east.
They meet at Durham's New Ferens Park home on Thursday for the WSL 2 opener.
This season marks the introduction of the second tier of semi-professional football to the women's game.
"It's vitally important - there are now two north east clubs at the highest level," King told BBC Look North.
She added: "The rivalry will be great but there's a partnership and a responsibility to promote women's football.
"It's great for young players, girls and women who want to get in the game and might have previously gone down south to play the game."
While Sunderland have Premier League pedigree, with three titles in as many seasons before their induction into Super League this season, Durham are in relative infancy with regards top-level involvement.
"It's not been a derby historically but it's shaped to be a new rivalry," King said.
"I've come down from Scotland and it's my first taste of English football. So far since preparations began last August it's been very exciting.
"There are teams like Durham who are the wildcards, no one knows what to expect from us, so it's a completely new challenge."