Martin Meissner/Associated Press
Schalke are an extremely dangerous and very underrated team that could, in the next few years, become the Bundesliga's third big power.
They've managed to keep together a strong contingent of young, hugely talented prospects, have the best academy in Germany and are backed by some of the most ardent supporters in the Bundesliga.
Like Dortmund, Schalke have a core of players who have been at the club for several years. The Royal Blues reached the Champions League semifinals in 2011 and, despite many changes in the meantime, are on paper no less a team now than they were back then.
Jens Keller's side have two key factors in their favor as they enter the upcoming season. The first is a young squad with potentially world-class talents that could undergo an explosion of development at any time.
Julian Draxler, who had a disappointing 2013-14, is a mega-talent who, despite his experience, only turns 21 in September.
Max Meyer and Leon Goretzka are, at 18 and 19 respectively, already fully capped Germany internationals. Kaan Ayhan was one of the Bundesliga's best center-backs this spring when a blight of injuries in the Schalke defense resulted in him being relied upon.
Leroy Sane and Marvin Friedrich were named to the UEFA Youth League Team of the Tournament last season. And 17-year-old Donis Avdijaj comfortably holds the record for goals scored in an under-17 Bundesliga season, with 44 (in addition to 13 assists) in just 25 appearances.
The other big strength of Schalke's is in depth. A veritable plague of injuries decimated the squad last season but also allowed fringe players to develop.
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Dennis Aogo, Marco Hoeger, Kyriakos Papadopoulos and captain Benedikt Hoewedes all missed long spells last season due to injuries, but all are fit and will be almost like new signings.
And even though Jefferson Farfan could miss the entire first round with a knee injury, Schalke finally have depth to back him up in the form of not only youngsters but an established talent in Sidney Sam.
Whether this season or otherwise in the not-so-distant future, Schalke's time is coming.
Although the current Schalke side is, player for player, at least on par with the 2011 semifinalists, the big comparative deficiency the current side has is in the leadership area.
Three years ago, Raul was a living legend who commanded the attack, while Manuel Neuer was equally influential in defense. Now Hoewedes is the captain. Although he has natural leadership qualities, the 26-year-old hasn't yet had the effect of his predecessors. That could change after playing every minute in Germany's historic World Cup triumph.
Otherwise, Schalke are generally inexperienced. Plenty among their squad have been around for several years, but the likes of Meyer, Goretzka and even Draxler are not finished products. Any could take a huge step this season, but stagnation as experienced by Draxler last season is similarly a possibility.
In any case, there's a big difference between performing against the average Bundesliga team and making an impact in the key head-to-head against the likes of Bayern and Dortmund. Substantial pressure will be on the shoulders of Schalke's youth in the coming season.
Finally, injury susceptibility is another huge concern for Schalke. Although most of their stars are fit again, there is no certainty that any among them won't suffer a setback in the coming weeks and months.
Farfan already has been diagnosed with knee cartilage damage; he surely will not be the last Schalke player to be injured. Fitness will be a key issue for Keller's men if they are to stand a chance in the Bundesliga.