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The Bundesliga is one of Europe’s five leading domestic competitions, along with the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga and Ligue 1. Founded in 1963, it has provided a home to many of the world’s best players and supplied European competition with some fantastic teams down the years.
The Bundesliga is the smallest of Europe’s five aforementioned major leagues, with just 18 clubs playing in it – two fewer than in the top flights of England, Italy, Spain, and France. Our guide provides a map of all the Bundesliga teams taking part in the 2019/20 campaign and has all the essential information on each of the teams.
Traditionally a lower-league club, Augsburg won promotion to the Bundesliga for the first time in its history in 2011. They reached another landmark by qualifying for the Europa League five years later, reaching the knockout stage before being eliminated by Liverpool. Based in Bavaria, its main rivals are Schwaben Augsburg and 1860 Munich.
The Bundesliga’s 50+1 rule states that a club’s supporters should hold 50 percent of shares, plus one share, and therefore have a majority of voting rights. Bayer Leverkusen is one of the exceptions, as the club has been owned by pharmaceuticals company Bayer since its birth in 1904. Its nickname, die Werkself, translates as ‘the Company’s Eleven’.
The kings of German soccer, Bayern has won more than three times as many Bundesliga titles as any other club in the division. They are also Germany’s most successful team in Europe, winning more Champions Leagues than all of their domestic rivals put together. Bayern is by far the richest and most popular side in Germany and came to be known as ‘FC Hollywood’ in the 1990s because of the off-field antics of its players and the club’s complicated internal politics.
|Stadium||Signal Iduna Park|
Borussia Dortmund is one of only three Bundesliga clubs to have won the Champions League. They play their home games at Signal Iduna Park, one of the most revered stadiums in the world. The Sudtribune, better known by its ‘Yellow Wall’ nickname, is the largest terrace for standing spectators in European soccer.
Borussia Monchengladbach is one of German soccer’s most storied names. Founded at the start of the 20th century, Gladbach enjoyed its most successful era in the 1970s, when the club from North Rhine-Westphalia won all four of its Bundesliga titles plus two UEFA Cups. Its chief rivals are FC Koln, located just over 30 miles away.
Eintracht Frankfurt was one of the Bundesliga’s founder members, although the club’s existence stretches back far beyond the competition’s launch in the 1960s. They won their only title before the Bundesliga era, coming out on top in the 1959 German Championship.
The second-oldest club currently playing in the Bundesliga, Fortuna Dusseldorf was born in 1895. They have experienced a somewhat turbulent existence in the 21st century, competing in the first, second, third, and fourth-tiers of the German game.
Freiburg’s all-time leading goalscorer is Joachim Low, the manager who led Germany to World Cup glory in 2014. Its former boss Volker Finke was the longest-serving manager in the history of German professional soccer, taking charge at the Schwarzwald-Stadion between 1991 and 2007.
The oldest club in the Bundesliga today, Hertha Berlin was a founding member of the German Football Association back in 1900. They are arguably one of the country’s biggest underachievers, having failed to lift the title in almost 100 years. Hertha plays at the Olympiastadion in Berlin, the ground which hosted the 2006 World Cup final between Italy and France.
Hoffenheim has a fascinating history. Traditionally a tiny club from the village of the same name, they were playing in the fifth tier of German soccer at the turn of the century. They quickly climbed through the divisions after software entrepreneur Dietmar Hopp pumped money into the club, and remarkably reached the Bundesliga in 2008. Hoffenheim have even qualified for Europe since then, playing in the Champions League in 2018/19.
Compared to many of its fellow Bundesliga competitors, Koln is a relatively new club that will not celebrate its anniversary year until 2048. They won the title in 1962 (in the German Championship era), 1964 and 1978, and finished as UEFA Cup runners-up in 1986.
Mainz’s history dates back to 1905, but the club was forced to drop into the amateur ranks from the late 1970s to the late 1980s due to financial problems. Since its re-professionalization, the club has participated in European competition several times.
Paderborn plays its home matches at the Bundesliga’s smallest stadium. The club is currently living through its golden era, having won promotion to the top flight for the first time in its history in 2014 – just nine years earlier Paderborn had been an amateur side.
|Stadium||Red Bull Arena|
The Bundesliga’s newest club, RB Leipzig is disliked by many supporters in Germany for its exploitation of a loophole in the 50+1 rule: the club has only a handful of members, most of whom work for energy drinks company Red Bull. Leipzig has risen rapidly through the soccer pyramid and is one of only two current members of the top flight from the former German Democratic Republic (East Germany).
Schalke is one of the most historic clubs in German soccer, with all seven of its titles coming before the Bundesliga began. They share a fierce rivalry with Borussia Dortmund and play their home games at the Veltins-Arena, which hosted the United States’ defeat by Czech Republic at the 2006 World Cup.
|Stadium||Stadion An der Alten Forsterei|
Union Berlin won promotion to the Bundesliga for the first time in 2019, joining city rivals Hertha at the top table of German soccer. Fans of Union, which was once the strongest side in East Germany, have developed a reputation as anti-establishment non-conformists who are vehemently opposed to the commercialization of soccer.
Werder Bremen is among the German top flight’s oldest clubs, and one of the few that was founded in the 19th century. All four of its title triumphs have come in the Bundesliga era, and Werder also lifted the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1992. The club is rivals with Hamburg, another historic side that is currently in the second division.
Wolfsburg, which is owned by automobile manufacturer Volkswagen, is another exception to the 50+1 rule. Founded in the aftermath of the Second World War, the club won promotion to the Bundesliga for the first time in 1997 and narrowly beat Bayern Munich to the top-flight title 12 years later.
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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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