He scored goals for fun at youth level and is hoping to emulate compatriot Weston McKennie by establishing himself in the Schalke first team, but who exactly is American teenager Matthew Hoppe?
There must be something in the water in Southern California, with Hoppe following fellow West Coasters Sebastian Soto (formerly of Hannover), Alex Mendez (Freiburg) and Ulysses Llanez (Wolfsburg) in moving to Germany in recent years. Born on 13 March 2001, the 6'2" forward played at the Barcelona Residency Academy USA in the Development Academy Southwest Division prior to moving to the Royal Blues and struck 29 goals in 23 matches in 2018/19, helping his side finish top of the league with a +36 goal difference.
Watch: Hoppe on making his Schalke debut on Matchday 9
Among that haul were two hat-tricks scored on one weekend in March 2019 - two of five trebles he registered over the course of the campaign. He's no one-season wonder either. The previous year he scored 24 times in 30 games for the U17s. Oh, and did we mention he's only played as a striker for two years? Talk about a natural talent.
Hoppe was called up to the first-team at Schalke for the first time at the end of November 2020, where he started and completed 81 minutes for the Royal Blues in what ended as a 4-1 defeat at Borussia Mönchengladbach. Further substitute outings followed against Bayer Leverkusen and Hertha Berlin, and he was back in the starting line-up on Matchday 14 in new coach Christian Gross's first game in charge.
Hoppe truly served notice of his talents on Matchday 15, however, by becoming the first American to score a hat-trick in the Bundesliga - with three superb finishes - as Schalke snapped a 30-game winless streak with a 4-0 thumping of Hoffenheim.
Plays a bit like: Robert Lewandowski
Ok, admittedly Hoppe still has a long way to go before reaching the same kind of level as the Bayern Munich hitman, but he has all the fundamental attributes to do so. Tall and lithe but with a strong frame, the American has a knack of losing his marker at just the right time, his clever movement creating pockets of space inside the penalty area. Although predominantly right-footed, he can also score with his left, with his head and from outside the box. The teen talent was called up to first-team training for the first time in November 2020, and his time rubbing shoulders with the pros has already helped him progress in Lewy-esque leaps and bounds.
Did you know?
Hoppe was originally committed to San Diego State University, but once the offer arrived from Schalke, he signed on with the Royal Blues at the beginning of July 2019. One of three Americans on Schalke's books at the time, he is now the only one there following the departures of McKennie and Nick Taitague (U23s).
What they're saying
"I plan on learning [Schalke's] system and style of play as fast as possible. Being the hardest working on and off the field and taking care of my body through proper nutrition and rest." – Hoppe upon signing for Schalke
“I don’t know how to feel. I’m excited, I’m happy that the team got the win and that I was able to contribute to it. It gives some confidence, it gives some momentum. Hopefully we can keep the wins coming and we can stay high in the first division.” - Hoppe after his hat-trick against Hoffenheim
Watch: Hoppe on his hat-trick against Hoffenheim
“He’s a boy who’s unbelievably ambitious, has tremendous commitment and only thinks about Schalke. He wants to do whatever it takes to get us out of this situation. He really is a model professional. Even though he’s still very young, he doesn’t shy away from working extremely hard. Of course he’s still very young and still has lots to learn in order to become a top-rate finisher, but we’re working on that.” - Schalke coach Christian Gross on Hoppe
“In the Southwest Division you’ve got LA Galaxy, Real Salt Lake, two of the best academies in the country, and we were able to win the division. We’ve had tremendous consistency throughout the year, and we have the top goal scorer in the country in Matthew Hoppe. He’s of the highest level.” - Sean McCafferty, academy director at Barcelona USA