The Beginner’s Guide to the Bundesliga
The Bundesliga, Germany’s top-flight professional football league, is one of the best-attended sports leagues in the world. Boasting the highest average attendances in Europe, the Bundesliga attracts an average crowd of almost 39,000 spectators for each league match.
Despite strong domestic support, the Bundesliga does not enjoy the same levels of international support as the Spanish, English and Italian leagues. Nevertheless, the Bundesliga possesses genuine financial clout, and is also home to some of the finest football players on the planet.
Eighteen German Football clubs participate in the Bundlesliga. These clubs form part of a league system in which each club plays each of the other clubs in the league, home and away, during the course of the season. Three points are awarded for a win and a single point is awarded for a draw.
The two lowest placed clubs are relegated to the Bundesliga 2 at the conclusion of each season, whilst two clubs from the same league are promoted to the topflight league. The club ranked 16th in the Bundesliga, is required to win a two match playoff against the 3rd ranked team in the Bundesliga 2, in order to retain its place in the first division.
The Bundesliga season runs parallel to that of the other major European leagues, thereby facilitating participation in European tournaments. The season begins in August and continues until the end of May. Players are given a brief mid-season break during the Christmas holidays in Germany.
The Bundesliga in Europe
At the conclusion of the Bundesliga season, the two top placed clubs are granted automatic qualification for the group stages of the UEFA Champions League Football Tournament, whilst the 3rd placed club receives an entry to the third qualifying round of the Champions League. The fourth and fifth placed clubs are also granted access to Europe via qualifying rounds for the Europe League (formerly the UEFA Cup).
Bundesliga clubs generally give good account of themselves in European football. Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Hamburg have won the Champions League six times between themselves, with Bayern Munich taking four Champions League titles. German clubs have also taken six UEFA Cup titles.
The Bundesliga differs from many other major European football leagues in that there is no major rivalry between two dominant teams. Instead, Bayern Munich has dominated the Bundesliga for decades and currently boasts 20 league titles – 15 more than closest rival Borussia Dortmund.
Major Bundesliga rivalries instead tend to arise between teams coming from a single town or city. Bayern Munich, as an example, has an enduring rivalry with Munich 1860, which is generally perceived as a rivalry between the princes and the paupers of German football.
Hamburg based teams Hamburger SV and St. Pauli have also nurtured a simmering rivalry over many decades, as a result of which cup or league derbies between these two clubs are amongst the most eagerly anticipated fixtures of the German football season.