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Schalke chairman steps down following racism allegations

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BERLIN (AP) Schalke chairman Clemens Tonnies has resisted calls to resign but is stepping down temporarily over comments he made last week that were widely condemned as racist.

The Gelsenkirchen-based soccer team has welcomed Tonnies’ decision to “resume in the same position” after three months. It says on the club website that allegations of racism are “unsubstantiated” but “allegations of having violated club policy and … non-discrimination principles are justified.”

Tonnies told a public meeting in Paderborn on Aug. 1 that tax increases to fight climate change were wrong and claimed it was better to finance 20 power plants a year in Africa.

“Then the Africans would stop cutting down trees, and they would stop making babies when it gets dark,” Tonnies said in comments first reported by the Neue Westfalische local newspaper.

Tonnies was speaking as head of the Tonnies Group, a meat-processing food giant with around 16,500 employees that specializes in the slaughter of pigs and cattle. The group posted revenues of 6.65 billion euros ($7.45 billion) last year.

Tonnies, who has been Schalke chairman since 2001, apologized for the comments but it wasn’t enough to stop widespread criticism. Germany’s justice minister Christine Lambrecht spoke of “hollow racism” and Sylvia Schenk of Transparency International Germany said Tonnies had a “highly problematic mentality.”

Criticism came from within soccer circles, too. Andreas Rettig of second-division side St. Pauli said Tonnies had displayed a “lord’s mentality,” while former Schalke forward Gerald Asamoah, now in charge of the club’s Under-23s, said he was “very surprised, shocked and also hurt.”

Nikolaus Schneider of the German soccer federation’s ethics commission told news agency dpa that it will be discussing the case on Aug. 15.

Schalke’s honorary board met to discuss the case on Tuesday evening, when Tonnies again expressed regret over the comments and acknowledged a violation of the club’s principles.

“Tonnies has therefore declared that he will take leave from the supervisory board and his position as chief for a three-month period, after which he will resume in the same position,” the club said. “The honorary board has welcomed Clemens Tonnies’ position and approved of both declarations.”

The club has since been widely criticized on Twitter by fans. Kicker magazine called the affair an “unbelievable farce.”

Weston McKennie signs five-year extension with Schalke

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U.S. international Weston McKennie has signed a new five-year deal with Bundesliga club Schalke, the club announced on Sunday.

The 20-year-old was set to see his current deal expire at the end of next season, prompting rumors of a move away from the German club, including links with Liverpool in January. Now with the extension he will be under club control through the summer of 2024.

McKennie is currently on international duty with the USMNT in the 2019 Gold Cup, playing in the first two group stage games before serving as an unused substitute in the third with a knockout stage spot already confirmed. At just 20 years old, he is a major part of the youth movement in midfield for the United States along with Tyler Adams and Christian Pulisic.

“It was an easy decision for me to make. I love the club and everything here: my teammates, the head coach and the fans”, McKennie said after official announcement of the deal. “I’d love to stay here forever.”

After joining Schalke from the FC Dallas academy in 2016 as a 17-year-old, McKennie began a meteoric progression as he developed into a regular starter for the German side. He has made 46 appearances for Schalke in Bundesliga play over the past two seasons, scoring one goal and assisting four in a deep-lying playmaker role. He has also made six Champions League appearances for the club, scoring a critical late goal against Lokomotiv Moscow that helped the club reach the knockout stage of last season’s competition.

“Weston will develop into a key part of our first team with us. Weston has shown in the past few months that he is more than capable of contributing significantly to the future of Schalke”, said Schalke sporting director Christian Heidel in the official team release. “Thanks to his talent and his willingness to learn, Weston has made the rise from the U19s to the Bundesliga and it’s been a success from the get go. We’re very happy that Weston sees his long-term future to be at FC Schalke 04.”

McKennie on Pulisic: ‘He’ll be great for Chelsea’

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Weston McKennie is expecting big things from his USMNT teammate and close friend Christian Pulisic in the Premier League.

No pressure then…

The duo have played together throughout the U.S. youth national teams and in recent years have locked horns in the Bundesliga for German giants, and fierce rivals, Schalke and Borussia Dortmund.

Pulisic has one more game left for Dortmund — who he rejoined on loan for the rest of this season after his $73 million transfer to Chelsea in January — and he’s scored in each of his last two Bundesliga games to give them a chance of winning the title on the final day (they trail leaders Bayern Munich by two points).

What a perfect way that would be to end his five-year stay at the Westfalenstadion.

Speaking to our partners at Sky Sports, McKennie has high hopes for Pulisic once he arrives at Chelsea after his

“Christian is the type of player who likes a challenge and likes to experience new things as well,” McKennie said. “I think he’ll be a great signing for Chelsea. He may not get it right away, he may get in and play you never know, but I think he’ll be helpful for them in any way that they use him. I’m excited for him and I know he’s excited to start that next chapter of his career and make an even bigger name for himself.”

Fans of the USMNT are looking forward to having their superstar playmaker pit his wits against the Premier League’s best week in week out, and Pulisic will be eager to hit the ground running after a stop-start 2018-19 season for club and country as injuries stalled his progress.

Pulisic may miss some of Chelsea’s preseason due to his expected involvement for the USMNT at the Gold Cup this summer, but he is likely to cut short any summer break to set the tone for what he hopes is a very successful career at Chelsea.

With Eden Hazard on his way out, Pulisic will be expected to help pick up the slack and lead Chelsea in the PL and UEFA Champions League next season and beyond.

An incredible challenge awaits the Pennsylvania native.

Schalke appoint former Huddersfield boss David Wagner

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GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany (AP) Schalke is bringing former United States international David Wagner back to the Bundesliga as coach.

[ MORE: Tottenham pull off second amazing UCL comeback in two days ]

The club says the 47-year-old Wagner, who previously coached Huddersfield in England’s Premier League, has signed a three-year contract through June 2022.

Wagner will inherit a side low on confidence after a lackluster season in which it only avoided Bundesliga relegation with a goalless draw against Augsburg last weekend. Schalke, which finished runner-up last season, hasn’t had a worse season since it was relegated in 1982-83.

The club fired Domenico Tedesco as coach following a 7-0 loss to Manchester City in the Champions League and turned to former coach Huub Stevens as an interim solution for the last eight games of the Bundesliga.

As a player, Wagner won the UEFA Cup with Schalke in 1997. He previously played for Mainz.

[ MORE: Tearful Pochettino hails Spurs “heroes” after another UCL comeback ]

Wagner’s coaching career began when he took charge of Schalke rival Borussia Dortmund’s second team in 2011, helped by friend and former Mainz teammate Jurgen Klopp. He was appointed Huddersfield coach in November 2015 and led the side to promotion in 2017.

Wagner performed a minor miracle by keeping Huddersfield in the Premier League the following season, but Wagner and the club agreed to part ways in January with the team last and eight points from safety with 16 games remaining.

Wagner, a former forward, made eight appearances for the United States.

Wagner or not, Schalke’s next manager hire big for USMNT

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Schalke midfielder Weston McKennie may get a manager who’s represented his same national team.

Former USMNT striker David Wagner is reportedly in “very advanced” talks to take the helm of the Bundesliga outfit.

[ MORE UCL: Spurs-Ajax recap | Eriksen reacts ]

Wagner, 47, was the Borussia Dortmund II manager before taking the job at Huddersfield Town and guiding the Terriers to the Premier League, but left the club in January en route to relegation.

Now with Schalke having dodged relegation and beaten rivals Borussia Dortmund this weekend under interim boss Huub Stevens, who himself has led the club on two other occasions.

The German-born Wagner won the UEFA Cup during a short stint as a player at Schalke, and was capped eight times by the United States.

But the move, whether Wagner or not, is significant for American soccer.

McKennie doesn’t turn 21 until the start of next season, and already boasts 44 Bundesliga appearances, a half-dozen Champions League matches, and six more German Cup slots.

He’s played in every central midfield position, as well as right back, right mid, and even a little center back and center forward. McKennie is one of the most industrious and experienced young players in USMNT history, but how much of his experience at the club level will even matter to Gregg Berhalter?

I mean, look at his positional usage at Schalke this season via Transfermarkt (right).

This could also become a David Alaba situation. The Austrian has played the majority of his Bayern Munich career as a left back, and then a center back. Yet the 26-year-old has only recently made the move to left mid or left back for Das Team, having been a center midfielder in World Cups and EURO tournaments.

So perhaps Wagner takes over at Schalke, and slots McKennie at right back. Does Berhalter think at all about whether Tyler Adams should go into the middle role and McKennie play a more natural right back? Or does Berhalter say Adams is his right back and McKennie a center mid, end of story?

Also, Wagner was a Danny Williams fan, so perhaps he’d consider the option of an All-American midfield with McKennie and Williams. Half-kidding aside, Schalke’s next manager and their intention for McKennie will be one of the more intriguing and important moves for the future of the U.S. midfield.