Five North American youngsters from Schalke's inaugural Integrated Academy will have the opportunity to play U19s Bundesliga football in 2022/23.
Schalke's Integrated Academy was established in co-operation with the International Soccer Academy, inviting 22 North American players between the ages of 16 to 18 to spend the 2021/22 season training with the Bundesliga club's acclaimed Knappenschiede youth set-up.
Five have now been signed to SC Verl's U19s: defenders Alex Hafer, Tidiane Keita and Jaime Villanueva, midfielder Christian Chandler, and forward Keiquon Aaron.
"The signing of our five players with SC Verl is living proof that our programme works," said Eddie Loewen, International Soccer Academy co-founder. "We're proud to create the opportunity for American youth soccer players to compete in the world's leading U19 league."
The magnitude of the opportunity is not lost on members of the Schalke-honed quintet.
"I am proud to join SC Verl. To play in the U19 Bundesliga is a huge opportunity for any player to showcase their talent," said Chandler
"This is the opportunity of a lifetime and I'm thrilled to be selected to play for SC Verl and compete in the U19 Bundesliga," added Aaron.
"After playing for FC Schalke, one of the best academies in the world, to now play for SC Verl is incredible," commented Keita.
German football has fast become the go-to destination for aspiring footballers, particularly North America-based players. USMNT star Christian Pulisic enjoyed a historic, formative spell at Borussia Dortmund, opening the door to the likes of Weston McKennie (ex-Schalke), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), Josh Sargent (ex-Werder Bremen) and Gio Reyna (Dortmund) to follow suit.
Bayern Munich signed Canada's Alphonso Davies ahead of his 18th birthday and, thanks to a player development partnership with FC Dallas, have paved the way for Chris Richards and Justin Che to play Bundesliga football. US youngsters Joe Scally (Borussia Mönchengladbach) and Ricardo Pepi (Augsburg) also enjoyed regular Bundesliga minutes during the recently ended campaign.
Watch: NextGen USA in the Bundesliga
"Through this partnership with the International Soccer Academy, we hope to give American talents the opportunity and recognition that they deserve," explained Hertha sporting director Fredi Bobic.
5 things on Sandro Wagner
What is there to know about the mustachioed former journeyman striker who is now Germany's assistant coach?
Who is Serhou Guirassy?
With 10 goals in five games, the Stuttgart star has equalled a record set by Robert Lewandowski, but just who is VfB's phenomenal forward?
Fantasy tips and picks for Matchday 5
Not sure which players should be in your Fantasy team? bundesliga.com's got you covered...