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The Revierderby: What it means for a U.S. sports fan

The heated rivalry will kick off on Saturday and it continues to evolve from a U.S. perspective.

FC Schalke 04 v Borussia Dortmund - Bundesliga Photo by TF-Images/TF-Images via Getty Images

The Revierderby. Borussia Dortmund-Schalke 04. The fiercest rivalry in Germany is once again on our doorstep. This game already means so much in Germany. It would always be a banner day there, regardless of the scenario. But, we’re not in any normal scenario. We as a society have been without sports for two months due to the coronavirus pandemic. With everything going on in the world, the derby’s importance on Saturday has grown exponentially from being a large rivalry match in Germany to a beacon of hope across the sporting landscape. Simply put, this is a big game and a big day in sports. Any neutral soccer lover should always watch this game, especially this year and especially after not having any live sports to watch for the last couple months.

As if you needed any more reason to tune in on Saturday, this rivalry has also morphed into the most fascinating major European derby from a USMNT perspective. Among the game’s most storied rivalries, Schalke-Dortmund is one of the few to have had the added layer of an American presence on either side. It’s been going on for quite some time-perhaps longer than you think. In the 90s, Thomas Dooley and current Schalke coach David Wagner played for Schalke, while Jovan Kirovski played for Borussia Dortmund. We came close to having an American on the field for both sides in 1996 (Jovan Kirovski played for Borussia Dortmund while David Wagner played for Schalke at the time), but Wagner never got off the bench that day. In the late 2000s, Jermaine Jones joined Schalke and was a fixture for them, although there were no Americans in the first team at Dortmund at the time. Four years ago at only 17 years old, Christian Pulisic got his first career start for Borussia Dortmund in this rivalry. In fact, he narrowly missed his first career goal in that game.

Then in the fall of 2017, the rivalry heated up for US fans. Pulisic started opposite Weston McKennie, marking the first time that Americans had lined up on opposite sides of the field at the same time in the Revierderby. When that game happened, Pulisic was a Bundesliga veteran, having appeared often for Dortmund for nearly two years. It was only a couple months after McKennie had earned a permanent spot on Schalke’s first team. McKennie and Pulisic faced off consistently in this rivalry over the last two years prior to Pulisic’s move to Chelsea last summer. Without an American for Dortmund, the game that means so much in Germany was expected to lose some luster here in the United States. However, 17-year-old Gio Reyna has emerged with Borussia Dortmund, and the recent tradition will take on another evolution. Now, McKennie will go in as the veteran as Reyna looks to make a name for himself in this rivalry. As a neutral fan, this game is always fun to watch, but the added feature of Americans likely to play on both sides makes it must-see television.

On Saturday, we will tune in en masse to watch the first major live sports in a long while. It’s fitting that it would be the Bundesliga and this great rivalry. There may not be fans in the stands, but all eyes will be fixed on the Westfalenstadion at 9:30 AM ET on FS1. I can’t wait!