With the likes of Matthew Hoppe at Schalke and Josh Sargent at Werder Bremen now set to star in the Bundesliga 2, North American viewers have all the more reason to tune into the top two divisions of German football next season.
bundesliga.com looks at the top American talent to look out for in Bundesliga 2 ahead of the 2021/22 campaign…
Matthew Hoppe was a rare shining light in what was an otherwise bitterly disappointing campaign last season as the Royal Blues suffered their first relegation from the Bundesliga in 33 years. The California-born striker burst onto the Bundesliga scene after making his senior debut at the end of November against Borussia Mönchengladbach.
In just his third start, Hoppe created history by becoming the first American-born player to score a hat-trick in the Bundesliga. His goals helped Schalke to their first win of the season, and he went on to score in each of his next two appearances with his name quickly becoming a household one across Germany.
Watch: Meeting Matthew Hoppe!
Now, with Schalke looking to bounce back from relegation at the first time of asking, Hoppe will be eager to build on his impressive debut campaign. The 20-year-old will also be involved in this summer's Gold Cup with the USMNT, with a chance to show his home country's support what he has to offer.
Alongside Bundesliga 2 goal-fiend Simon Terodde - the third-highest scorer all-time at that level - Hoppe has the perfect teammate to learn from at the Veltins-Arena as he goes in the hunt for goals and promotion with the Royal Blues in 2021/22.
Club: Werder Bremen
Despite being only 21, last season was already Sargent’s third at Werder Bremen. A personal best five goals and two assists from 32 league appearances in 2020/21 were not enough to help Die Grün-Weißen stay in the top-flight and so much like Hoppe, Sargent will be looking to build confidence in Bundesliga 2 while bringing Bremen back up.
Missouri-born Sargent has missed only eight Bundesliga games across the last two campaigns, but with head coach Florian Kohfeldt departing the club, the USMNT forward will need to impress the new man in charge, Markus Anfang.
Watch: Josh Sargent, coming of age
Sargent made the perfect start in that regard during this pre-season by scoring a first-half hat-trick in a friendly win over fourth-tier Oberneuland. He was making his first start since helping his country win the inaugural CONCACAF Nations League in June.
The 16-cap USMNT striker looks set to be key for Anfang at Bremen having top scored across all competitions last term, as well as contesting more challenges and making more sprints than any other Bremen player. A lack of consistent scoring has been one of the few question marks over the Missouri native’s performances in Germany, but his attacking returns and confidence should grow in 2021/22.
Club: Jahn Regensburg
After a fantastic first season at Jahn Regensburg for Calgary-born Scott Kennedy, the centre-back is looking to build on his efforts in Bundesliga 2 this coming campaign.
Kennedy made the switch to Germany from Canada in the summer of 2015, signing for sixth-tier SB Chiemgau Traunstein. In each of the seasons since his arrival in Europe, the 24-year-old has moved clubs as his development as quickly progressed. After one-and-a-half seasons with Austrian top tier side SK Austria Klagenfurt, Kennedy caught the attention of Regensburg.
The centre-back made just a single appearance for the club’s second team in 2020/21 before being brought into the first-team fold. Nine appearances came in the first half of the season, of which only four were starts, before Kennedy established himself as a regular starter, ending the campaign by playing the full 90 minutes in seven of his last eight outings.
Kennedy has both developed as a player and a person in a short period of time, learning German fluently and integrating himself into the Regensburg squad. After the most impressive season of his career so far, which also saw him become a full Canada international, the defender will certainly be one to watch heading into 2021/22.
Country: Canada/St. Lucia
Position: Left winger
A Caribbean-born winger who has chosen to represent Canada internationally if called upon, Caniggia Elva has had an interesting journey to Ingolstadt and regular Bundesliga 2 football.
Born in St. Lucia, Elva’s father Titus and uncle Olivier are both former internationals for the country, but at the age of 11, Elva moved to Canada with his family where he would grow up and continue to build his love for football. At the end of 2013, Elva came to VfB Stuttgart for a trial which resulted in him being handed a four-year deal with the Bundesliga side on his 18th birthday.
After a short loan spell with Strasbourg in the French third tier, Elva left Stuttgart in the summer of 2018 and joined Würburger Kickers in the German third tier. Despite an injury-hit season, the 24-year-old's four goals and two assists were enough to tempt Ingolstadt into making a move, and he signed a two-year deal in 2019.
Now, Elva has missed just one league fixture for Die Schanzer across two full seasons and helped the former Bundesliga side gain promotion back to Bundesliga 2 via the play-offs at the end of the season. Operating predominantly from the left wing, Elva contributed nine goals last term - up one from 2019/20 - and is set to play a starring role once again as Ingolstadt plot their return to the second division.
There is more North American influence creeping through at Ingolstadt alongside Elva in the form of Justin Butler and Jalen Hawkins. The German-born pair are both former products of the Bayern Munich academy and are looking to break into the Ingolstadt first-team on a full-time basis.
Butler looks a step ahead in that regard. The forward has made 13 first-team appearances for Ingolstadt, most of them coming from the bench towards the end of their promotion campaign in 2020/21. He even bagged his first goal at that level with a late winner against Kaiserslautern in February having been brought on from the bench.
Butler made over 40 youth appearances for record Bundesliga champions Bayern before making the switch to fellow Bavarians Ingolstadt in the summer of 2019. Regensburg-born Hawkins made his switch a summer earlier and has made 13 first-team appearances in total since then, scoring twice along the way.
With both players aged 20 and also playing in the forward line, Ingolstadt could have an all-North American offence at some point through the coming 2021/22 season. That prospect alone should make the Bavarian club worth keeping an eye on for American fans, with Butler and Hawkins both remaining eligible for the USMNT having played internationally at youth level for the US.