Stade de Reims have completed the signing of Kobi Henry from Orange County in an undisclosed USL Championship transfer record deal which will see the 18-year-old defender join the Ligue 1 club this summer. Speaking exclusively to CBS Sports, Henry is looking forward to testing himself in France and is pleased that months of preparation have fallen into place with this switch being confirmed.
“I am very excited and very grateful for this opportunity,” said the former Inter Miami and Orlando City talent. “It has been getting situated over the past couple months and whatnot. I am very happy to finally be able to move over.”
Henry, a U.S. international at under-17, 19 and 20 level has been on Reims’ radar since at least the start of 2022 and the Lakeland, Florida, native admitted that he feels that the Champagne outfit are the ideal next step in his development.
“For me, the club was a perfect fit,” he said. “I see myself developing there and I love the pathway that they have set up at the club. How they like to push younger players on and give younger players opportunity. I felt as if it was a great fit for me.”
Reims and Henry are yet to map out his future with the club in terms of immediate involvement, gradual development or even a loan move, but the imposing central defender is open to the French club’s ideas when he meets up with his new teammates for preseason training.
“I would say it is completely up to the club,” Henry told CBS exclusively. “My job is to go there and perform and try to develop and learn as much as I can about the club style and try to become a better player. Hopefully I get my opportunity.”
Reims’ development into a youth-focused project led by Oscar Garcia with the likes of Hugo Ekitike exploding onto the scene at Stade Auguste Delaune played a significant factor in Henry deciding to join Les Rouges et Blancs ahead of other European and Major League Soccer options.
“This is why I came to this club, and I am very grateful that they gave me the opportunity to be a part of their program,” he said. “I just think it is a great place for me to develop and hopefully get an opportunity. I would say that was a big factor and just knowing that the club will help me develop and grow in the early stages of my career. I think that it is a great place to go as a young player.”
USL’s Mark Cartwright is delighted with the deal which follows on from another talent heading to France with Junior Flemmings joining Toulouse FC from Birmingham Legion and told CBS Sports that it is proof of the progress the league is making.
There have been a couple of other deals that have gone through to France that show that they are taking a particularly strong interest in what we are developing in the country here,” he said. “Certainly, the type of players that we have in the league. I think that is only going to get bigger. This is probably the last untapped marketplace in the world where you are going find the hidden gems, because the country is so vast.”
Reims finished 12th out of 20 teams in Ligue 1 in the 2021-22 season and will be up against Flemmings’ TFC this coming campaign with competition set to be fierce with relegation spots instead of the previous two automatic and one playoff berth.