Defender Kobi Henry has been transferred from USL Championship side Orange County SC to Ligue 1 outfit Stade de Reims, as confirmed by the clubs on Tuesday.
OCSC will collect an initial transfer fee reported to be around $700,000, which breaks a USL Championship record for an outgoing transfer fee, according to ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle. In addition, Orange County SC holds a future percentage clause, so if Reims transfers him, the club will get proceeds from that sale.
“This is an incredibly exciting time for me and my family, a dream come true,” Henry said in an Orange County SC statement. “When I came across the country to play for OCSC, I knew that if I put in the work and followed the plan the coaches laid out for me, I would have the opportunity to play in Europe. I can’t thank OCSC, the staff, my teammates and the fans enough for believing in me. Playing abroad at the highest level is a great achievement in my journey as a professional soccer player and I look forward to what the future brings.”
The 18-year-old spent two years with Orange County SC, making 27 appearances across three seasons for the club. The central defender was a regular down the stretch of the 2021 regular season under interim boss Richard Chaplow, and helped the team win the 2021 USL Championship league title. The Florida native is considered a hot prospect in American soccer and looked likely to make the move abroad after turning 18.
“Kobi’s signature is a big step forward for our project,” Stade de Reims Sporting Director Pol-Edouard Caillot said. “Reims has become one of the most attractive clubs for young players - we are the team where young players get the most playing time in Europe. Kobi will continue to grow and develop his skills in a good environment.”
Reims is a midtable side in the French top flight, but they’ve been on a run lately of developing young players and selling them on. Lately, 19-year-old Hugo Etikite appears to be in the midst of a bidding war between Paris Saint-Germain and Newcastle United, and Reims is a good spot for a young player to develop and hopefully move to a bigger club on the continent down the line.
In that way, Reims’ strategy mirrors Orange County SC’s, who have now made two transfers of young players this season, with Henry joining Ronaldo Damus’ move to Swedish side GIF Sundsvall in March. While OCSC want to win trophies, they also want to be a destination for young prospects to develop before making the step up to the next level in their careers, and Henry is yet another proof of concept for the club.
“From the day I purchased OCSC six years ago, the club has advanced with one core idea: that the young US player is the most undervalued asset on the international transfer market in all of global football,” Orange County SC owner James Keston said. “OCSC created a structure focused on recruiting and training the most talented young players in Southern California and across the US, pairing OCSC youngsters with experienced professionals to create a highly competitive culture along with a team that can compete for a USL Championship Cup each year. As we embark on a significant expansion project as a club and grow our player pipeline, we congratulate Kobi for leading the way for the next generation of OCSC young professionals.”
Congratulations to Kobi on the move and best of luck in Reims and beyond.
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