Bundesliga's Hoffenheim grab Gyau, Renken
They are two of America's brightest youth stars: striker Joseph-Claude Gyau and midfielder Charles Renken.
The pair, close friends, have developed their big games together for the past two years with the U.S. national U-17 residency team in Bradenton, Fla. And Gyau and Renken will continue to thread the ball back and forth on speed runs up the pitch.
However, their development is moving from U.S. soil. Bundesliga upstart 1899 Hoffenheim has swooped in and will sign Gyau and Renken to multiyear contracts.
The two players, the subject of heavy European recruitment, will arrive at Hoffenheim next month and won't return to the U-17 team in Bradenton.
Gyau's and Renken's agent, Dan Segal, confirmed the arrangement. For the next year, Segal said, the pair will split time between Hoffenheim and the Vancouver Whitecaps' residency school to prepare for Germany.
Thomas Niendorf, who runs Vancouver's academy, has worked in Germany with Hoffenheim's academy director, Ernst Tanner.
Gyau, 16, and Renken, 15, had received interest from several European clubs.
Every English Premier League team -- from Chelsea to Liverpool -- showed some interest in Renken, who is recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Renken, who suffered the injury in March, worked out for Arsenal and Reading, and 1860 Munich in Germany.
Gyau had a successful two-week trial with Bayern Munich two summers ago and also was looked at by Stuttgart, and Chelsea and Manchester United in England.
After discussions with a number of clubs, Gyau and Renken chose Hoffenheim. "The key to the decision made by the boys and their families is that Hoffenheim constructed an outstanding path for their development as players," Segal said. "During their first year, they will be permitted to split time between Germany and Vancouver, where they will attend school and be trained to prepare for a full-time adjustment to Germany the following year.
"Thereafter, they will be part of one of the best youth systems in the world at a club that emphasizes the promotion of youth players," Segal added. "Charles and Joe know that their best years are ahead of them, and this program will give them the best chance to achieve their great potential."
Justin Rodriguez covers USL, NCAA and youth soccer for ESPNsoccernet. He is the soccer writer for the Times Herald-Record in Middletown, N.Y., and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.