Durango has long been a power for soccer in the state.
The Durango Youth Soccer Association (DYSA), which is in its 25th year of existence, took the next step to further the game in the region when it formed an alliance earlier this month with the Rio Rapids Soccer Club in Albuquerque and the Colorado Rapids of Major League Soccer.
Kate Stahlin, the technical director for DYSA, said the new partnership will only enhance the quality of the game in the area.
“Our membership has been very excited, and the response has been very positive,” Stahlin said. “I think two-fold, being affiliated with not only the Rio Rapids but also the Colorado Rapids, an MLS team, is really exciting. The new image and the new colors and the new logo will also be fresh, and I think change can be really positive. For our membership, they’re also seeing the benefits of the resources we’re going to have access to, so everyone’s been really upbeat and positive.”
New resources include access to the Rapids curriculum, which is tied in with the U.S. Soccer Development Academy and will help both youth and elite players expand their skills. In addition, the soccer circle in Durango will expand to access youth soccer coaches from across the state and region.
“We have access to all these individuals who have been working in the youth soccer scene for a long time, and they have a lot of experience,” Stahlin said. “If we’re having issues trying to solve a problem down here, we now have people that we can bounce ideas off of as a sounding board, so it’s going to be good.”
The new alliance will come at a cost increase for members. Stahlin said the added cost will not exceed $25 per member during the next two years and will go into effect next year. A current membership for a full-year membership for both fall and spring seasons costs $300 for players 12-and-under, $355 players ages 13-14 and $325 for high school aged players 15-19.
Colorado Rapids senior director of soccer development Brian Crookham is fully aware of the history tied into the Four Corners and said the partnership will only strengthen the game in the region.
“Durango has long been a soccer hotbed for the game, looking back to the Fort Lewis days with Jeremy Gunn and before, so we’re really looking forward to this partnership,” Crookham said. “This gives kids the opportunity to really increase the level of competition in the area. There’s certain kids who want to take their game to the next level, and this alliance can do that.”
Crookham said that seven players have come through the Rio Rapids ranks that have made the Colorado Rapids Development Academy, including 2018 Durango High School graduate Elijah Fenton, who now plays at Metro State University-Denver.
“I think it really gives players a clear path to see the next steps in developing and we hope it can only grow from here,” Crookham said.
Chris Hurst, director of external operations for the Rio Rapids, said that now that the Rapids are expanding into Durango, they can develop players like never before.
“The biggest thing for us is that we’ve liked the way we’ve been doing things in Albuquerque,” Hurst said. “We like our methodology, the way we’ve been doing it, but we’ve always felt that we were somewhat limited, and now that we’re able to help other communities like Durango, we get to get our message across to a large group of kids, and we’ve seen how great a job they’ve done, but now, we are hoping to push it along.”
The Rio Rapids Soccer Club also has teams in Las Cruces and Sante Fe, while the Colorado Rapids Alliance also has ties to the Black Hills Rapids Soccer Club in Rapid City, South Dakota, and the North Meck Soccer Club in Charlotte, North Carolina.
DYSA Board President Charlie Milliet said the future of the beautiful game in Durango has never looked brighter.
“First, as an organization, we’re trying to make sure our product is as good as it can possibly be,” Milliet said. “That’s why partnering with an organization that’s better than you is a smart idea. Secondly, we want to solve our other problems where we don’t have to travel as far to compete, and the level of play in this whole area is just better. That’s why we’re excited and we can’t wait to get started.”