• January 14, 2021

Richmond, VA (January 14, 2021) – When Matthew Hoppe became the first American-born player ever to record a hat-trick in the German Bundesliga play this past weekend, many around the soccer world were surprised. In just his fifth game with Schalke 04’s first team, Hoppe exploded for three goals, his first in the professional ranks. His offensive outburst helped snap a 30-game winless streak for Schalke and made him the club’s leading scorer on the season, owning 25 percent of the team’s tallies. 

Heading into the contest, Hoppe had just one goal in 16 appearances for Schalke II in the German fourth-tier before his promotion in November, and was scoreless in 214 minutes with the first-team. Last season with Schalke’s U-19 team, Hoppe had five goals in 20 appearances. So to say his world-class performance this past weekend was unexpected would be an understatement. 

Except to those at Strikers FC, especially Technical Director Don Ebert. 

“I had goosebumps watching the game,” Ebert said. “I was texting his father and I told him, ‘Don’t worry, the football world knows Matthew Hoppe today.’ It was fantastic to see a kid do that. He’ll remember that day for the rest of his life.”

Born in Orange County, California, Hoppe joined Strikers FC when he was 14 with his eyes set on playing across the pond. Soon after joining the club, he caught Ebert’s attention because he started to show the key characteristics of what it took to be an exceptional player. So Ebert made sure to continue to foster that growth and development with eyes set on Europe. 

“Hoppe had what I call ‘The Gear,’ Ebert said. “He had different paces and as a young player, that’s really special. I was blown away by how effortlessly he ran and his gears and you have to have that. The second thing is, if you’re not crystal clean with your touch, and I mean crystal clean with your first touch, they’ll laugh you out of Europe. Matty had it with his left foot and right foot. His first touch was immaculate; he could do things and he didn’t need to be staring down, his head was up. He could dribble at full speed with his head up and the ball wasn’t going anywhere. The last thing is the strength of every American player. You have to be humble and you have to just be that American work-a-holic. When I saw Hoppe do that, I was like, ‘Oh, this kid, now if he wants it he can get it.’”

Ebert started playing Hoppe in older age groups to really test him, something he believes is necessary for any player with serious desires to play in the professional ranks. He continued to excel playing against older boys and tougher competition, and eventually, it was time to head to Europe. 

“When I took Hoppe over there, he was raw and I wasn’t sure if he was ready,” Ebert said. “So we went over and I watched him tear up some training sessions. But I wasn’t sure if he wanted it. And at the end of the trip, he said, ‘That’s it. This is it. I don’t even want to go back.’”

Since he was still too young to play over in Europe, Hoppe had to return to the United States. But he continued to work, taking language classes to learn German and grinding in training sessions. Still playing up, Matthew’s team eventually aged out, which facilitated a move to the Barca Academy. But when he turned 18, he was ready and made the jump. 

“We did four different clubs in 12 days,” Ebert said. “I just wanted to see and then the light went on and he gave up everything. He went home and did everything he was supposed to do. You just have to be willing to cut the safety net and pursue your dream, and that’s what he did. No one knew Matt Hoppe. He didn’t have the international resume. He just said, ‘I’m doing it.’ And here he is, doing it.”

Hoppe continues Striker FC’s success of exporting domestic players into the top European leagues. He followed in the footsteps of players such as Bobby Wood and Benny Feilhaber. Now, he’s become the role model for the next generation of Striker players. 

“You’re opening up doors behind for the kids who want to be next,” Ebert said. “That’s what’s exciting, when you see all these guys making it and you realize, it’s happening. And as a former player who always heard we weren’t good enough, I think it’s awesome when these guys do it. They’re opening up doors for the guys who want to be the next them.”

Strikers FC is committed to providing their players with the best opportunities to grow their game, and the club joined the ECNL Boys this season, a top club making an already stacked Southwest Conference even better. The league’s introduction of the Super Cup this fall, a revolutionary program pooling together the best athletes from multiple age groups for additional best vs. best competition, will help continue to push each club and every player. 

“We try to put our guys in the top competitive environment,” Ebert said. “We want to continue to be in a position where our teams and our players compete at the highest domestic level. Our pathway is we play in the top leagues, we have professional domestic and European opportunities, and we’re going to continue that. And that’s what it’s about.” 

For Hoppe, he’s got his entire career ahead of him. His hard work and determination and the opportunities presented by Strikers FC got him to where he is today, and at just 19 years old, there’s still more of the mountain to climb. 

“The hardest part is to get your chance,” Ebert said. “I always tell guys, don’t get frustrated, but when the chance comes, you have to be prepared and you have to kick the door down. Matthew kicked the door. Everybody knows Matthew Hoppe now. The greatest thing is now the paths are open for him. And everybody waits to have that. And now he’s got it. The kid’s got everything it takes to be a top European professional footballer and I hope he realizes it.”


About The ECNL:

The ECNL is the nation’s leading youth soccer development platform. The ECNL respects and celebrates the unique individuality of every youth soccer player and club, supporting and enabling them to unleash their unfettered passion and fierce tenacity in striving to achieve their potential. 

The ECNL mission to Raise the Game is a total commitment to create the best possible environment for players, coaches, referees and administrators, with a determination to constantly question convention and challenge the status quo in youth sports.

The ECNL Commitment:

We will lead, set our eyes on new horizons, and pursue them relentlessly. 

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Jacob Born