Schalke have moved to bolster their first team squad for the 2017/18 season, with the promotion of US youth internationals Weston McKennie (18) and Haji Wright (19) to the senior set-up.
Die Knappen – or the Miners – have unearthed a number of gems in recent seasons, with Manuel Neuer, Mesut Özil, Julian Draxler and Sead Kolasinac among those to have once called their youth academy home, and Sporting director Christian Heidel is confident the next crop of teenagers have similar promise.
“They belong in the first-team next year,” he said. “They deserve it. Their presence also means we have more options for our final game of the season against Ingolstadt. We already knew McKennie was ready for the Bundesliga. With Haji Wright, we weren’t totally convinced in the winter, but he has progressed a lot in the second half of the season.
"You've got to love football in this area because it is football," McKennie told ESPN recently. "When you go into the Veltins Arena, you really want to walk out down by the players. You look around and see thousands and thousands of people. To play for the fans, to play for the club, it would be a real dream come true."
McKennie and Wright are joined by German Under 19 prospect Luke Hemmerich. “There are not many clubs who can promote three players from their own academy,” concluded Heidel. “But we didn’t do it simply to look good.”