Zyen Jones, a 17-year-old Atlanta native and former member of Atlanta United’s academy, will sign with Schalke in Germany’s first division when he turns 18 years old.
Jones will be one of several U.S. players who have signed with the club.
Schalke was founded in 1904 and has won seven German league titles. Though perhaps not as well known as Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund, it is among the richest clubs in the world with a devoted fan base of more than 100,000 club members.
Kevin Kratz, a midfielder for Atlanta United and native of Germany, provided some info about the club and what Jones may experience:
“It’s a club in an area of Germany where you have Schalke, Bochum, and Dortmund.
“It’s a worker’s area, hard-working guys, great fans.
“Schalke is a great club with a great youth academy overall.
“I can remember my time with Bayer Leverkusen it was always against Schalke or Dortmund were the best games each year.
“I think he will do well every year.
“It’s a big step to go overseas at this age, but he will get into a system where everything is set up with a good front office. He’s not in a spot where he’s getting pressure from fans, which helps (him) to grow.
“Once he hopefully gets into first or second team, where he gets some pressure from the fans because you have to be successful in this area, it will help him as a player and as a person. It will build his character.
“I’m in touch with Bayer Leverkusen here and there because of my history. They are aware of what’s happened in Atlanta. They are aware of what’s happened in the American market.
“I think these young Americans that come up are very athletic, are getting more and more technical and if you get into a system in Germany where it’s all about soccer and you start growing up and learn all the tactical stuff when you are 13, 14 years old, I think that’s very interesting for the German clubs to get these young players to Germany, increase them on the tactical side, and then hopefully they turn out well.”