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After missing out on qualifying squad, Weston McKennie sees World Cup call-up as ‘realistic opportunity’


Weston McKennie understands why he isn’t a part of the current U.S. Men’s National Team squad. He’s too young and too inexperienced for vital matches against Panama and Trinidad & Tobago. It would be too big of a risk.

However, the 19-year-old Schalke star does have his sights on representing the U.S. Men’s National Team by the time next summer’s World Cup comes around.

Bruce Arena announced his 26-man squad on Sunday morning and, to little surprise, McKennie’s name was not involved. Despite making three consecutive starts in Bundesliga play, McKennie was left off the squad in favor of several older, more experienced options. It wasn’t a big shock that a 19-year-old midfielder with no USMNT experience was left out of camp, and you can count McKennie among those who didn’t expect to see his name on the roster.

“We have the qualification in play right now and I can understand if I don’t get a call right away because it’s pretty risky to call an unfamiliar face in such an important time,” McKennie told Goal USA . “If I’m mad about that, that’s pretty selfish because of course I would want to be there, but I also understand the decisions that he made because it’s what’s best for the team and the country.”

Even at 19, there are few players in the USMNT pool playing at a higher level than McKennie. He recently made his Bundesliga debut in a solid performance against Bayern Munich and has rapidly become a full-fledged member of the Schalke first team. As the U.S. still searches for a true partner for Michael Bradley, McKennie also could fill a position of need as a rock-solid defensive midfield presence.

For now, though, McKennie’s debut will have to wait, but the Schalke midfielder believes his time could come in the near future, setting him up for a push for Russia should the U.S. qualify for next summer’s World Cup.

“I think I’m pretty close. Time will tell,” McKennie said. “If I keep performing at Schalke, then it could be closer than expected.

“I don’t think many people would have thought that in my first year as a professional that I would start three games, back-to-back, in the Bundesliga,” he added. “It all depends on the coach and if he trusts you and gives you the chance. Things can happen a lot quicker than you think, but they can also not happen. I think [the World Cup] is a realistic opportunity for me.”


  1. While I think it makes good sense for McKennie to stay with his club at this time; I wouldn’t be surprised to see him brought in after qualification is secured.

    Just for context, Pulisic made his Bundesliga debut on Jan 30, 2016, as a sub. Got his first start on Feb 21, 2016, and before he made his 2nd start in April, he made his first appearance in a USMNT shirt on March 29, 2016. So, Pulisic got a Nats callup and subbed in after one start in the Bundesliga.

    • He played in more matches than that and had even seen time in the Europa League. Look at the actual play of each individual who looks more ready. Also playing a youngster on the wing is less risky, if CP turned it over near sideline or WM turns it over in the middle of the pitch 30 yards from goal.

  2. One thing I think is missing from these last few roster is certain players feeling no pressure on their job security. Bradley isn’t going anywhere with only dax behind him, villafana isn’t going to lose out to a 35 year DMB. Not saying bench those guys but let them know there is someone coming for their spot. Same thing for a few others like Omar and Nagbe when older players are brought in they might lose some of that oh shit I got to bring my best today

  3. It’s a big step up from 3 games in the Bundesliga to international soccer. Right now I would pick both Acosta and a healthy Williams ahead of McKennie. By the end of this year’s club season, it may be a different story, but I don’t think he has shown enough to be considered for a meaningful game for the US. Give him some friendlies and then we’ll see.

      • The soccer itself no, but when you consider all the travel, having to integrate into the us system with only a couple practices, deal with sub par pitches, and the pressures of playing for your country for the first in a match they must win. Yes that is very different for a 19 year old.

      • It was too much for Timothy Chandler and he was a lot more experienced at the time. The difference, I think, is the intensity and down right nastiness in CONCACAF qualifiers. Even when I watch European qualifiers, I don’t think you see the same intensity and nastiness that you see in CONCACAF. A lot of players in CONCACAF will go to any lengths to win and, as we have seen, the terrible officiating often lets them get away with it. Add to that things like fans chanting outside hotel rooms through the night at Central American venues, having all sorts of things thrown at you when you are entering or even on the pitch, and it’s stuff players don’t see in European club football.

      • Another thing I thought I would add re difference between the Bundesliga and CONCACAF. The Bundesliga seems like a league where they play hard, but are rarely dirty. In a recent Newcastle game, a player stomped on Yedlin’s leg while he was down and the ref didn’t see it, though the announcers did and replay showed it. My thought at the time was, “Getting Yedlin ready for CONCACAF.”

  4. Don’t know if Arena considers standing with club team in his decisions but JK did (or at least said he did). McKennie staying with Shalke right now is best opportunity for him to establish himself with the team which is probably best for US in the long run. Probably best for Fabian to stay with Mochengladbach right now also, but probably not best for US Team. Unfortunately, I think the Gold Cup showed the MB is still the best central midfield option available domestically. I think most of the posters hoped others would step up in the Gold Cup, but they didn’t. IMO, US better have two defensive mids against Panama or will lose every second ball in the center of the midfiield. I think that means Acosta and Bradley start. I would play with three in the back to get three of Pulisic, Wood, Dempsey/Atidore in the middle to attack. I don’t want to see a 4-5-1. If he plays a 4-5-1, it has to be Wood up top which means both Dempsey and Altidore would be on the bench.

  5. McKennie is just getting started with Schalke – and could soon find himself on the bench. Look the 3 games he’s started its been 2 losses and 1 draw. He has not locked it down. If it was 2 wins and a draw in those games then yeah he’s part of a team that’s winning, but no he’s been part of the team that has not performed well. From what I’ve seen he’s been a competent all around player – but let’s not mistake him for the second coming of Jermaine Jones at this time.

  6. Impressive comments from Weston, and it’s certainly the right call to leave him in Schalke given the circumstances of these games, and the opportunity for McKennie to stay home at Schalke to train and keep momentum there during the break.

    Re: Bradley’s partner – It is definitely beginning to feel played out, but I do not think it is inaccurate to point to that issue as his perceived decline. Back in 2008-2010 when MB90 was scoring important goals and making his case to be a career-long fixture he usually had a more consistent pure defensive midfielder with him like Mastroeni or Rico. He made runs late, and also was a target on set pieces/good at scoring scrappy goals on loose balls in the box. Now he is far more deep-lying and often taking set pieces since he became an expert at those lofted passes in Italy. Also, he helps lead a Toronto team that is currently just short of being the best MLS side ever on a points per game basis.

    Finally, MB used to occasionally be a bit of a hothead (or at least more outwardly energetic), which was nice to see (post-game vs Uruguay in the U20 WC being the best example). I don’t want to agree with Lalas, but I like his point that “zen” MB is at best entertaining and at worst detrimental to team energy. Skill notwithstanding, I think we all enjoy a more manic approach like old MB or JJ through 2014.

    It’s certainly important to think about a potential partnership with McKennie, though, since Bradley could possibly have another full cycle left as a starter there.

  7. Mckennie is quick and doesn’t dwell on the ball. His decision making is very good too for a young player.

    MLS players need to compare themselves to him in terms on mental quickness. ie., know what to do before you get the ball and don’t start thinking once you’re on the ball

  8. can’t wait for this kid to be on the national team!

    re: Bradley – like it or not we are still built around him. after the world cup I would love to see a series of friendlies without him and all of these promising cm’s given an opportunity. but until then I wouldn’t trust MB as a solo DM against higher competition. personally I would love to see McKinnie, Bradley and another midfielder in a 4-3-3

  9. Bradley will get put out to pasture after the World Cup. Bradley has been really shrewd in how he has ingrained himself as the team leader over the last several years because even when he sucks (which is most of the time) all the leadery coach speak still gives Arena something to cling to.

  10. “As the U.S. still searches for a true partner for Michael Bradley,”
    Reading this phrase which has been used over and over and over again for the past 10 years is giving me nightmares and indigestion. Someone kick me.

    • I used to be a Bradley supporter but over the last few years he has struggled and people keep saying he needs to find the right partner but none have worked out, when is it time to say it’s not the partners fault and Bradley is the problem, especially when no one has really been given a chance in his role. Not saying bench him or anything but the friendly’s over the last few years have wasted opportunities to find a different option

      • @Bryan, exactly! Our MF has been the worst part of the field for us in the Hex and has been routinely outplayed by whoever the opposition was. It starts and ends with MB<<90. JJ comment earlier in the cycle something to the effect of if the midfield was outplayed it was always about finding the right partner for MB and he was bitter so much criticism was directly his way for much of this and last cycle. I can see JJ's point but he's not without faults either of course but he was the better of the two CMs in 2014 WC.

        Its time to move on from both after this cycle but the reason I think we need to talk about this and bring it up is, was Bradley's play really deserving of being an auto starter at the expense of trying other non Bradley MF options?
        My opinion is that although Bradley was never that quick he lost what quickness he did have after the ankle injury he had during warmups in Costa Rica last Hex, he lost his place at Roma after that and never really recovered his MB90 form IMO. Given his status as US Captain however he was never challenged and penciled in by both BA and JK on every lineup.

        I said it before that MB is not a true #6. In his younger days he had a tendencies to chase down everything in an opposing uni even out on the wing or up and a 6 needs to remain positionally aware to help shield and defend the space in front of the CBs. As he's gotten older and less quick he tends to jog around a lot even allowing opposing counters to speed by him while he jogs to catch up to the play. Rarely see him stop opposing counters or making hard tackles or challenges to break up play that could be dangerous before it gets to the back line. That's why he's always been better with a partner. The partner covers his deficiencies as a 6 and allows him to do what he's best at which is finding thru balls and switching field of play long balls.
        Bradley in his prime may have been the best or second best box to box CM we've ever produced but he's not working out at the 6 and his engine can't cover the ground he needs to as a two way CM anymore.

  11. If the November fixtures are friendlies in Europe, he’ll probably debut then. If we have to go to a playoff in November, then his best opportunity would be in March.


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