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Charles Renken brings international experience to St. Louis Academy squads

A native of Zambia, Renken has followed up his outstanding career as a player by entering coaching
Credit: St. Louis American
A native of Zambia, Charles Renken has followed up his outstanding career as a player by entering coaching.

ST. LOUIS — Charles Renken brings international experience to St. Louis Academy squads. 

A native of Zambia, Charles Renken has followed up his outstanding career as a player by entering coaching. Charles Renken’s soccer journey has taken him from his native Zambia to the U.S., Europe, and Canada.

His passion for the sport drove him to become a star at several levels, and he is now a specialist coach with the MLS expansion franchise St. Louis CITY’s MLS Next Under-16 St. Louis Academy team. The CITY will play its inaugural MLS season in 2023. Renken also assists with the U-17 team.

“I’m very excited for this role. I will be working very hard to bring joy to St. Louis,” he said.

Born Charles Bimbe in Lusaka, Zambia, he moved to Edwardsville, Illinois in 2003 and lived with the Renken family. Two years later, the family adopted him It was not long before international soccer scouts recognized his talent. He was a star in an Under-14 league – at the age of 10.

He played for the national U-14 team at 11 in 2005, and a year later moved up to the U-15 squad.

Renken’s next stop, at just 13 years old, was the internationally acclaimed U.S. Soccer U-17 academy in Bradenton, Florida in 2007. At 14, he was called “U.S. soccer's next rising star.”

The world of professional soccer awaited him, and he signed with Germany’s TSG 1899 Hoffenheim and became a member of the Vancouver Whitecaps academy team.

Knee injuries derailed his meteoric rise through the soccer ranks.

In 2012 he signed with the Portland Timbers and played in 10 reserve league matches. He played for a Swedish team before he signed with Arizona United of the United Soccer League in 2014.

He returned home to St. Louis and signed with the United Soccer League expansion club Saint Louis FC. A year later, Renken signed with the USL’s Seattle Sounders.

Throughout his career, Renken said he thought about becoming a coach in the future.  “I went to camps and volunteered. Eventually, the opportunity to help the community came along. I wanted to stay involved in the game,” he said.

As a specialist coach, Renken said he works with players to improve a particular skill. “If they want to get better at something, I take what they have, and make it better,” he said.

Throughout his playing and coaching career, Renken said he appreciated soccer’s outreach. “I would say it has always been a diverse game. With our club, we like to provide a space for all communities to be involved,” he said.

Renken’s U-16 team blanked Shattuck-St. Mary’s 2-0 on Sept. 4. The U-17 squad then dominated Shattuck-St. Mary’s 8-1 to remain undefeated in MLS NEXT action.

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