Schalke became the first team relegated from the German Bundesliga this season and will now try to maneuver its way immediately back to the top flight.
American striker Matthew Hoppe is one of many young players at the club who could be called on to lead in the second division next season after showing promising moments at times in 2021.
Hoppe kicked his time with the first team off in style, scoring five goals in his opening month after being called up from the Under-23 team. The 20-year-old American forward needed only 11 days and 265 minutes of action to score a hat-trick against Hoffenheim, a match that sparked a run of five goals in three matches.
Since then, the goals have dried up for Hoppe, as they did for Schalke, and now the club will try to show more consistency in the 2. Bundesliga next season.
Hoppe signed a new contract at the club in January, when relegation already appeared like a strong likelihood, and the goal for him will be to work his way into consistent minutes and more goalscoring opportunities in the competitive second division. After working his way through the youth ranks, Hoppe got his chances, despite the team struggling for majority of the Bundesliga campaign.
With results not going the way that Schalke had hoped, Hoppe’s playing time dropped as the club tried to earn victories and pull itself out of the relegation zone. Unfortunately, Tuesday’s 1-0 loss to Arminia Bielefeld officially marked the club’s return to the 2. Bundesliga for the first time since 1987-88 and now Hoppe will hope to play a key role starting next fall.
Hoppe only made 16 appearances for the Under-23 team this season before earning the jump to the first team, a sign that he is not yet the finished product. While the goals may take time to find, Hoppe can continue to polish his craft as an all-around forward, a successful recipe for long-term success as a player in Germany and also Europe.
There will be calls for Hoppe to make a move away from Schalke, especially given some of the rumors linking him to larger clubs when he was enjoying his hot streak. The more reasonable reality is that whatever modest interest there may have been in Hoppe back in January has dried up, and even if there were opportunities to make a move, he would be unlikely to find a better opportunity for playing time than he is about to have with Schalke in the German second division.
It is easy for some to forget just how raw Hoppe still is. The 20-year-old totaled just under 1,100 minutes in the Bundesliga in his debut season, a run that came after his 16 matches with the Schalke U-23 team.
The 2.Bundesliga isn’t the Bundesliga, but it is a tough league, and securing a return to the top-flight isn’t guaranteed for Schalke. If Hoppe can earn a starting role, and play a key role in Schalke’s return to the Bundesliga, then that could do as much or more for his career than leaving the German club now, when it will need all the help it can get to recover from this nightmare season.