Vitesse signed American U17 striker Kai Koreniuk to his first professional contract, who signed a three-year deal with the Arnhem club earlier today. Koreniuk, aged sixteen, comes from Vitesse's academy, and has both Dutch and US citizenship.
A striker who appears to have a good mix of size and speed, Koreniuk has had something of a meteoric rise. As the Orlando Sentinel explains, he had been playing for a youth club in Orlando, Florida just a year ago, before making the decision to move to the Netherlands to chase his dream of professional football.
A native of Ormond Beach, Florida, Koreniuk was accepted into Vitesse's academy, and after playing extremely well, the Dutch national team programme came calling. He earned a spot on Netherlands U16 team, no small feat considering the wealth of young Dutch talent on offer. However, just last month, he made the decision to play for the United States, and has been spending the summer playing with the US U17's. He appears to be a regular starter, and scored last week in a tournament in Denmark as the US beat the Faroe Islands, 4-0.
Koreniuk will start the season with Vitesse's U17's, and has set personal goals for the season, namely helping his team finish near the top of table and scoring twenty goals (he scored fifteen goals with the U16's and U17's last season).
As Vitesse and Chelsea share a special relationship, Koreniuk is worth keeping an eye on. If things go well for the young American, he could end up being the second Vitesse academy product to join Chelsea down the road (following Marco van Ginkel).
While this is admittedly looking quite a bit ahead, a quality American player in a Chelsea shirt would certainly help the club further establish its brand in the United States. The US has a growing appetite for football, and specifically Premier League football. The World Cup provided a massive, albeit largely temporary boost in interest in the sport, but with each year, the amount of passionate football fans in the United States grows. As the American fanbase grows, so too do the sponsorship opportunities and revenues.
While regular pre-season tours to the US help promote the club's brand, a club that signs a quality American player will naturally position itself well earn both supporters and sponsorship revenues. Everton, for example, with Tim Howard as its goalkeeper, has a disproportionately large number of American fans. Further, StubHub, a US-based ticketing agency and the world's largest, chose Everton as its partner when it decided to get involved in Premier League ticketing. The StubHub deal represented the most lucrative sponsorship deal in Everton's history (outside of shirt deals).
Notably, Koreniuk has been a Chelsea supporter since he was five years old, and naturally, would love to play for Chelsea one day (ideally, after he's helped Vitesse win a few Eredivisie titles and earn Champions League football).
@cescfabregasUK hopefully! Chelsea has been my favorite club since I was 5 years old.— Kai Koreniuk (@kkoreniuk) August 8, 2014