May 25, 2005 - Already one of the top organizations in Tucson, the Canyon Del Oro Soccer Club has merged with one of the premier professional soccer clubs in the world.
In a landmark marriage, the first of its kind in the United States, CDO Soccer has united with the Charlton Athletic Soccer Club of the English Premier League.
After meeting with every club and anyone else vested in soccer in Tucson, Charlton officials believed that CDO's attention to developing its players best fit with the London-based organization's philosophy.
"The big thing with this is," said CDO coach Steve Wallace, "we are not a franchise. We are part of the professional club."
With its new alliance, comes a new name: the CDO Charlton Athletic US Soccer Academy.
"It's not just about winning anymore," said Dean Stevens, a coach for the 14-and-under team last year. "It's about learning the game and improving fundamentals."
CDO Soccer joins Charlton, which has academies in Spain, Finland, Canada, South Africa and is in the process of developing one in China. Others will follow at select sites throughout the United States, but, for now, CDO is the only one in the nation.
The new international partnership, replete with its elongated anagram - CDOCAUSSA - doesn't necessarily spell the end of the old CDO.
"We kept the 'CDO' in the name to stay loyal to our roots," said Wallace of the 24-year-old organization.
What is new will be a Junior Academy, running from ages four through 10, and a senior academy to join the club level.
"It's an all encompassing program," said Wallace. "It's not just for elite kids. The top players have to start somewhere; they don't start all of a sudden."
The idea behind the merger is to better benefit the kids and teach the game of soccer.
"The objective here is, that kids get a love of the game first," said Wallace.
Last year, CDO had more than 20 teams featuring more than 400 players. Registration is not closed yet and the numbers already signed up haven't been tallied, but Wallace anticipates enrollment to be higher than years past.
"This is our school of soccer, which we've ran under the guise of CDO in previous years," said Wallace, "but some of our feedback we got was that the material was dated."
To freshen up its programs, Charlton sent CDO its "Charlton Premier Challenge" which is the same curriculum run by its programs in the United Kingdom.
As its newest member, CDO is allowed to take any two members of the parent organization for an eight-week term. For example, CDO can choose personnel from the club's sports psychologist, strength and conditioner trainers, or even female coaches. Charlton also has a women's professional club team.
The only two CDO cannot choose is the manager and first team coach of the professional team. That gives CDO the opportunity to train its players and coaches under the tutelage of some of the best specialists in Europe.
As with any change, apprehension is imminent. Wallace said the reaction has been mixed, especially because this is the first merger of its kind - parents are suspicious and other local clubs are afraid of losing their players.
Wallace is hopefull that its new affiliation will make CDO more attractive when applying for out-of-state tournaments.
Another bonus is the ability to license its own coaches internally, which Wallace believes CDO is now the only club that can do so. CDO will appoint a director of education who will run the coaching course, under the watchful eye of an independent observer from Charlton.
"If we can get the right appetite into these coaches, it's going to be dynamite for us," said Wallace, "because they are getting some of the best education that is out there because of our support staff - this will all filter through to the players."
Some the area's finest coaches on board include Ironwood Ridge High School boys coach Eric Wolfe and girls coach Jon O'Dalen. All coaches will be required to be licensed and have advanced prior experience in the sport.
Parents will still play an active role in CDO soccer, as team managers and administrative positions.
"There is an awful lot of over-coaching that goes on," said Wallace, "unfortunately there's also a lot of politics that goes on. All we're trying to do with this partnership is provide the best experience for the kids."
Despite hailing from Newcastle, England, and having the accent to back it up, Wallace says the uniting of Charlton and CDO is coincidental.
"This isn't just attaching a name to a club and hoping for the best and saying just come to us because we are going to win everything now," concludes Wallace. "It truly provides a structure that no other club in the country has."
Players can register for the Junior Academy online at cafcussa.com.