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The Bundesliga 2 – or the 2. Bundesliga as it is officially known – is the second division of German soccer. As the name suggests, the league is linked to the top flight, the Bundesliga.
Unlike in the United States, where there is no relegation from or promotion to MLS, a top-two finish in the Bundesliga 2 standings will earn German sides a place in the top division. The team which ends the season in third place in the Bundesliga 2 standings advances to the promotion play-offs, where they will face the Bundesliga’s 16th-placed team over two legs. The winner will play in the top flight the next season, while the loser will be part of the Bundesliga 2 standings.
At the other end of the Bundesliga 2 standings, the bottom two teams are relegated to the 3. Liga, with the third-bottom side contesting the relegation play-offs.
The Bundesliga 2 was founded in 1974 and is approaching its 50th birthday. We’ve put together this handy guide containing everything you need to know about Germany’s second division.
As you can see from the table below, soccer was professionalized later in Germany than in many other nations.
The Bundesliga was launched as soon as soccer turned professional, but it took another 11 years before the second tier was added to the pyramid. It began as two regionalized divisions (North and South) with 20 clubs each but has operated as a single league with 18 clubs since 1994. From the 1991/92 season onwards, clubs from former East Germany featured in the Bundesliga 2 standings as the country was reunified.
Between 1991 and 2008, the side that came third in the Bundesliga 2 standings was automatically promoted to the top flight. The current playoff system has its advocates and its detractors. Supporters of the arrangement cite the drama and entertainment it brings, but others argue that it is unfair on the Bundesliga 2 side given the probable disparity in resources between the two competing clubs.
The Bundesliga 2 has provided a home to hundreds of players since its inception. The holders of the below records are no doubt hugely proud of their accomplishments, but there is nevertheless a curiosity to them: the ultimate aim of any player involved in the Bundesliga 2 is to get out of the division by winning promotion to the Bundesliga. Even so, being the highest appearance maker or leading goalscorer in the history of the Bundesliga 2 standings is no mean feat.
|Dieter Schatzschneider||Hannover 96, Fortuna Koln||154|
|Karl-Heinz Modrath||Fortuna Koln, Alemannia Aachen||150|
|Theo Gries||Hertha Berlin, Alemannia Aachen, Hannover 96||123|
|Sven Demandt||Mainz, Fortuna Dusseldorf, Hertha Berlin||121|
|Walter Krause||Kickers Offenbach, SG Wattenscheid, Rot-Weiss Oberhausen||119|
|Daniel Jurgeleit||Union Solingen, FC Homburg, Lubeck||117|
|Gerd-Volker Schock||VfL Osnabruck, Arminia Bielefeld||116|
|Franz Gerber||St Pauli, Ingolstadt, 1860 Munich, Wuppertaler, Hannover 96||115|
|Paul Linz||Osnabruck, Freiburger, Waldhof Mannheim, Bremerhaven||115|
|Willi Landgraf||Alemannia Aachen, Rot-Weiss Essen, 08 Homburg, Gutersloh||508|
|Joaquin Montanes||Alemannia Aachen||479|
|Karl-Heinz Schulz||Freiburg, Freiburger||463|
|Hans Wulf||KSV Hessen Kassel, Schwarz-Weiss Essen, Wormatia Worms, Hannover 96||440|
|Wolfgang Kruger||Union Solingen||428|
|Hans-Jurgen Gede||Fortuna Koln, Preussen Munster||416|
|Andreas Helmer||SV Meppen, Osnabruck||411|
|Gerd Paulus||Kickers Offenbach, Rochling Volklingen||407|
|Oliver Posniak||Darmstadt 98, FSV Frankfurt||403|
|Dirk Hupe||Fortuna Koln, Union Solingen||399|
|Benjamin Pavard||Stuttgart to Bayern Munich||€35 million|
|Anthony Modeste||Koln to TJ Tianhai||€29 million|
|Ozan Kabak||Stuttgart to Schalke||€15 million|
|Lukas Podolski||Koln to Arsenal||€15 million|
|Timo Werner||Stuttgart to RB Leipzig||€14 million|
|Filip Kostic||Stuttgart to Hamburg||€14 million|
|Marcell Jansen||Borussia Monchengladbach to Bayern Munich||€14 million|
|Douglas Santos||Hamburg to Zenit Saint Petersburg||€13 million|
|Santiago Ascacibar||Stuttgart to Hertha Berlin||€10 million|
|Timo Baumgartl||Stuttgart to PSV Eindhoven||€10 million|
|Lukas Podolski||Koln to Bayern Munich||€10 million|
As with the player records, the below represent something of a double-edged sword. Indeed, while achieving multiple promotions from the Bundesliga 2 is an undoubted achievement, it also means the teams in question were relegated back into the second tier on several occasions.
|Club||Number of titles||Seasons|
|Nurnberg||4||1979/80, 1984/85, 2000/01, 2003/04|
|Koln||4||1999/00, 2004/05, 2013/14, 2018/19|
|Freiburg||4||1992/93, 2002/03, 2008/09, 2015/16|
|Hannover 96||3||1974/75, 1986/87, 2001/02|
|Karlsruher SC||3||1974/75, 1983/84, 2006/07|
|Bochum||3||1993/94, 1995/96, 2005/06|
|Arminia Bielefeld||3||1977/78, 1979/80, 1998/99|
|Stuttgart||3||1976/77, 2016/17, 2019/20|
|Hertha Berlin||3||1989/90, 2010/11, 2012/13|
|Fortuna Dusseldorf||2||1988/89, 2017/18|
|SpVgg Greuther Furth||1,238||+163|
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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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