FRISCO, Texas – Weston McKennie doesn't forget where he came from.
The Juventus and USMNT midfielder is making the most of a rare break from competing on Europe’s biggest stages and returned to North Texas to visit family, friends and his former club.
“It’s kind of the place where everything all started for me,” McKennie said at a press conference at Toyota Stadium. “I have FC Dallas to thank for so much. For believing in me, especially in the hard times with the (youth) national team. Just being back here, I want to try to give back to the community and where I started in my upbringing.”
McKennie joined the FC Dallas Academy as an 11-year-old and quickly progressed through the ranks, often skipping one or even two age groups to compete against older players. When he turned 18, the midfielder decided to chase his European dream and signed with Schalke 04 in the Bundesliga. Still, McKennie credits the FCD Academy for readying him for the next level.
“For me, FC Dallas set a really professional environment,’ he said. “I think they played mental games with you because we’d train on Field 2 (at Toyota Soccer Center) and Field 1 is literally right across from you. So, you’re going out to train with the Academy but you see the pros over there and you’re just thinking ‘It’s so close, it’s right there.’ So you gave everything you could to make sure you got to that field one day. Obviously, they prepared me so well I ended up being able to make the jump over to Europe instead, but they helped me through a lot.”
After four seasons in Germany, McKennie went on loan to Italian giants Juventus—joining the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala and playing for Italian legend Andrea Pirlo. After impressing in his first few months in Turin, Juventus bought McKennie outright for a reported fee of €18.5 million ($22 million). It’s quite the achievement for a kid from Little Elm ,Texas (a place McKennie admits wasn’t exactly a soccer haven when he was growing up).
“Whenever I was here, soccer wasn’t such a big, big thing. But in Dallas and Frisco and Little Elm, it started growing. You see more and more now, whenever you go out in public, you see people wearing soccer jerseys. You see people playing pick-up. You see a new type of culture kind of forming here. And it’s amazing to see that, and if I can have anything to help do that then you know I would do everything that I can. If that’s just me playing and doing what I love, then so be it.”
While McKennie is now a crucial piece of Juventus and the USMNT, the 22-year-old clearly hasn’t forgotten where he came from.
“FC Dallas at that time offered everything they could’ve offered. As you see, we’ve had many successful players that have come out of the program and have gotten to the highest places that they can. And guys are still coming out of the program. So as far as that, whenever I go over to Schalke over Juventus, of course there’s (different) philosophies, but if it’s not broke don’t fix it. And FC Dallas has been doing this for quite some time and continued to prove that they’re the best development Academy in the country.”