Beginners Guide to the Bundesliga
For a long time, those who frequented matches in German soccer’s top flight were the envy of the footballing world.
With cheap ticket prices, clubs assisting with the cost of away travel, full stadiums and the chance to have a beer while taking in the game, the fan experience always looked to be a very enjoyable one in the Bundesliga. But what was often overlooked was the standard of soccer that the fans got to sample.
Indeed, in terms of the action on the pitch, the Bundesliga is one of the absolute best around. The soccer is physical, intense and in keeping with the shift in emphasis at grass roots levels in Germany, is bristling with technically proficient stars.
When you consider the division is a relatively young one, the progress made is all the more impressive. The Bundesliga was set up in 1963 in an attempt to determine a national champion. The end of World War II essentially reset the German game, with the Allied-occupied nation beginning with regional leagues.
It meant five divisions became one following a prolonged application and qualifying process, with a second tier eventually established in 1974.
Since its inception, the dominant team in the division has been Bayern Munich. The Bavarian club have been champions a whopping 26 times, with their nearest rival in those stakes 1. FC Nurnberg, who have nine.
Known as FC Hollywood by some, Bayern have largely had a stranglehold on German soccer and hold major gravitas for players in the division. Icons of the country’s football like Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Muller, Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger have represented the club with distinction and enjoyed plenty of success.
Of all the teams in the division, it’s Borussia Dortmund that have given the Bavarians the most problems in recent times. Two of their eight Bundesliga titles have come since 2011, with vibrant former manager Jurgen Klopp propelling them into a position where they were able to oust the might of the German juggernaut. At the peak of the German league’s powers, the two met in the 2013 UEFA Champions League final, which Bayern won 2-1.
Other prestigious names regularly compete at the top too. Bayer Leverkusen and FC Schalke 04 have long been home to some of the best young German talent around, while Hertha Berlin, Borussia Monchengladbach and Wolfsburg are slowly emerging forces in the modern game.
While Bayern comfortably remain in possession of the division’s best squad, those sides aforementioned will likely be battling it out for the UEFA Champions League spots, of which there are four in total. Those sides in fifth and sixth are guaranteed a place in the UEFA Europa League the following season.
Although there are only 18 teams in the division, three sides could feasibly be relegated from the top flight into the second division known as “2. Bundesliga”. The bottom two that finish the Bundesliga season get relegated to the league below, although the side in 16th place has a change to save themselves in a playoff against the third place team in the second tier.
The only team to have featured in every season of the Bundesliga is Hamburg, although they needed a playoff in 2014 to keep up that immaculate record. They beat Greuther Furth on away goals that year.
Like a lot of the top European leagues, the division does have a winter break, temporarily suspending action between Christmas and late January. If it’s a division that you’re enjoying for the first time in the upcoming season, it’s a hiatus you’ll come to quickly lament, as it’s so easy to get swept up in the engrossing nature of this brilliant competition.
Aside from the Bundesliga, the clubs play in the domestic DFB Pokal cup competition. All top division teams participate from the start of the DFB Pokal competition and are even made to play on the road to add a level of difficulty to their advancement.
One week before the Bundesliga season kicks off, the German Super Cup features the winners of the Bundesliga against the DFB Pokal cup winners.
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