Christian Pulisic isn't the only 19-year-old American midfielder making waves in the Bundesliga.
U.S. midfield prospect Weston McKennie earned his first start for Schalke on Tuesday, getting the nod for a massive Bundesliga match against Bayern Munich. McKennie had previously played for Schalke's first team this season, getting 25 minutes total in a pair of substitute appearances, but the midweek start against the league favorite is a leap to a new level for him. In all, McKennie went 57 minutes against Bayern–whose lineup featured the likes of James Rodriguez, Thomas Muller, Kingsley Coman, Corentin Tolisso and Robert Lewandowski–exiting with Schalke trailing 2-0.
The full debut is the culmination of a meteoric rise for the native Texan, who joined Schalke, along with fellow American teenagers Haji Wright and Nick Taitague last year. The trio has played for the club's U-19 team, with McKennie scoring four goals in the 2016-17 season.
McKennie rose through FC Dallas's academy, leaving for free after turning down a Homegrown Player offer to play in MLS when he signed with Schalke. That didn't sit totally well with MLS commissioner Don Garber, who told SI.com last September:
"That one hurt. We had a lot of forces that we were working against on signing that player, and that’s the reality of how difficult it is with a player pool at the youth level that continues to attract the attention of very, very aggressive and well-funded international teams. That one hurt. Not sure there’s much more we could’ve done. We did everything we could financially. The player had been in [FCD’s] system for nine years, so when you look at the investment that goes into supporting that development and then you lose him and get nothing, it makes you scratch your had and wonder, ‘Why are we doing this?’ And then two weeks later you sign Paxton [Pomykal] and you feel a little better about it."
For more on McKennie, watch this highlight compilation made by Top Drawer Soccer:
Here are a few more facts about McKennie (from an interview with German outlet DW):
- He had committed to attend the University of Virginia before turning pro.
- His favorite NFL team is the Washington Redskins.
- His favorite soccer player is Francesco Totti.
- He made his Schalke first-team debut on May 20, 2017, playing 13 minutes vs. Ingolstadt.