In our latest installment of Bundesliga Restart Week, we take a look at all of the teams racing Bayern Munich for the title.
We’ll save the biggest for last, but in the meantime, we have some good teams to go through. Here are teams 9 through 1 on the Bundesliga table.
9th: TSG 1899 Hoffenheim (10W-5D-10L — 35 points)
Pronounced as it’s spelled (-heim as in “time”)
Located: Sinsheim, Baden-Württemberg
Stadium: PreZero Arena (30,150) also known as the Rhein-Neckar Arena
Nickname: Die Kraichgauer (People of the Kraichgau region) achtzehn99 (eighteen99)
Manager: Alfred Schreuder
The first club on this list that has direct ties to a major company. The history of Hoffenheim is controversial and complicated. For most of the club’s history, Hoffenheim languished in the depths of German soccer. Then, in 2000 Dietmar Hopp, a former TSG youth player and billionaire co-founder of software giant SAP, became the club’s major financial backer.
Now, here’s why this is controversial. Two teams also on this list were founded by the workers of major companies. To most German soccer fans, the direct link between company and club makes sense. However, for all of Hoffenheim’s history up until 2000, they were a club with no success in a village of less than 3,500 people. Then, Hopp came in and, as many German soccer fans see it, bought his team’s success. Hopp has constantly been ridiculed by fans and media alike, and some have taken things further by displaying banners mocking and threatening Hopp, including one game this year against Bayern that was stopped due to these banners. Needless to say, Hopp’s image in the Bundesliga is a topic that will not rest.
8th: SC Freiburg (10W-6D-9L — 36 points)
Located: Freiburg im Breisgau, Baden-Württemberg
Stadium: Schwarzwald-Stadion (24,000)
Nickname: Breisgau-Brasilianer (Brazilians of Breisgau)
Manager: Christian Streich
Founded over 100 years ago, SC Freiburg has a long history with one glaring absence...the lack of a national championship. Known as the club where future German national team manager Joachim Löw spent most of his playing career, Freiburg has bounced back and forth continually between the Bundesliga and the Bundesliga 2. leading to a common chant between Freiburg fans, “We go down, We go up, We go into the UEFA Cup!” Under cult coach Christian Streich, though, Freiburg has managed to stay afloat in the top division year after year lately. After finishing last year in 13th, SC Freiburg currently sees itself in a promising position at 8th with just 1 point separating them from a European spot. That’s wild.
7th: VfL Wolfsburg (9W-9D-7L — 36 points)
Located: Wolfsburg, Lower Saxony
Stadium: Volkswagen Arena (30,000)
Nickname: Die Wölfe (The Wolves)
Manager: Oliver Glasner
Titles: 1 league title, 1 DFB-Pokal
One of the aforementioned clubs started by a major company, the city of Wolfsburg was founded in 1938 as the home of Volkswagen. Those VW workers established a soccer club in September 1945, but it took them until 1997 to reach the top flight of German soccer. Wolfsburg most magical season came in 2008/09 when the club won its only Bundesliga title off the backs of amazing performances from strikers Grafite and Eden Džeko. Their 2014/15 season was another success, featuring players such as Kevin De Bruyne, Nicklas Bendtner, Bas Dost, and Luis Gustavo, who finished second in the Bundesliga and won the DFB-Pokal.
6th: FC Schalke 04 (9W-10D-6L — 37 points)
Pronounced: Shall-kuh (i.e. not “shhhalk”)
Located: Gelsenkirchen, North Rhine-Westphalia
Nickname: Die Königsblauen (The Royal Blues)
Manager: David Wagner
Titles: 7 league titles,
German Football’s first ever double-winning squad, Schalke 04 is the 4th most successful Bundesliga squad with 7 total championships. The most dominant squad in the 1930s, Schalke earned its nickname from their royal blue kits. Very rugged and hardworking, Schalke 04 is known as the working class-team due to its location in the very industrial working town of Gelsenkirchen. The tunnel in their stadium to the pitch is made to resemble a mine shaft! The club with the second-highest club membership, Schalke is wildly supported and incredibly popular within Germany — just not in Dortmund. Their most notable current player is their star American midfielder, Weston McKennie, who has lit the Bundesliga on fire with his decisive play.
5th: Bayer 04 Leverkusen (14W-5D-6L — 47 points)
Pronounced: Buyer Lay-ver-koo-zen
Located: Leverkusen, North Rhine-Westphalia
Stadium: BayArena (30,810)
Nickname: Die Werkself (“The Factory Eleven”) Neverkusen (for their many finishes as runners-up)
Manager: Peter Bosz
Titles: 1 German cup, 1 UEFA Cup
As the club’s name and nickname suggest, this is our second club founded by a major company. This club was founded by the workers of Bayer Pharmaceuticals. Fans of the team have enjoyed Bundesliga football ever since the 1979/80 season, but Leverkusen is regrettably defined not by their successes, but by their famous collapses. Perhaps their worst season was 2001/02. They were utterly dominant and on the verge of winning the first-ever German treble, having reached the finals of the Champions League, the DFB Pokal, and leading in the Bundesliga. With three games to go in the league, Bayer lost two of the last three and fell one point short of Borussia Dortmund. In the Pokal final, Bayer were dismantled by Schalke, who won 4-2. Finally, the harshest sting of all, the Champions League final in Glasgow against Real Madrid was a close affair until the 45th minute when Zinedine Zidane scored one of the greatest goals in UCL history to win the match for Los Blancos. Defined by their failure, fans gave Bayer the nickname “Neverkusen” and they haven’t come as close to glory ever since.
4th: Borussia Mönchengladbach (15W-4D-6L — 49 points)
Pronounced: Boh-roos-see-uh Moon-chen-glad-back (for ö, try pronouncing o while pursing your lips)
Located: Mönchengladbach, North Rhine-Westphalia
Nickname: Die Fohlen (The Foals)
Manager: Marco Rose
Titles: 5 league titles, 3 DFB-Pokals, 2 UEFA Cups
Steeped in history, Borussia Mönchengladbach was the team to beat in the 1970s, winning all 5 of their Bundesliga trophies between the years 1970 and 1977. Earning their nickname Die Fohlen because of their youth and aggressive style, they dominated the decade. Generally viewed as a contender every year, Borussia Mönchengladbach has managed to hover around the top 3-4 spots of the league. Led by forwards Alassane Pléa and Lars Stindl, they play an exciting attacking style of football.
3rd: RB Leipzig (14W-8D-3L — 50 points)
Located: Leipzig, Free State of Saxony
Stadium: Red Bull Arena
Nickname: Die Roten Bullen (The Red Bulls)
Manager: Julian Naglesmann
Much like Hoffenheim, the history of RB Leipzig is controversial — even more so. The team started out as SSV Markranstädt in the 1940s and played in the lower tiers of East German football. They dropped to the fifth division after reunification.
Then in 2009, everything changed when Red Bull bought the rights to the club and renamed it to “RasenBallsport” (lawn ball-sport) Leipzig. With the backing of the drink giant, RB Leipzig rose up the ranks, attracting many of Germany and Central/Eastern Europe’s youngest talent. In the 2016/17 season, RBL reached the Bundesliga for the first time and became the first East German side to hold the top spot in the league since Hansa Rostock in 1991/92. The team also became the first East German side in 22 years to reach the DFB Pokal final, when they did so in 2019.
German soccer fans detest RB Leipzig as an affront to the famous 50+1 rule. In German soccer, the members of a club must retain at least 51% ownership. There are some traditional exceptions (namely Bayer and Volkswagen for Leverkusen and Wolfsburg), but Red Bull is an Austrian company that have never had any ties to East German soccer until they bought this team in 2009 and remade it into their own image. To many fans, this is inexcusable, but for the people of East Germany, specifically the people of Leipzig, Red Bull gave them hope that they could experience the glory of winning titles they miss from the years of the DDR.
2nd: Borussia Dortmund (15W-6D-4L — 51 points)
Pronounced: Boh-roos-see-uh Dort-moond
Located: Dortmund, North Rhine-Westphalia
Stadium: Signal Iduna Park (Often called the Westfalenstadion)
Nickname: BVB, Die Schwarzgelben (The Black and Yellow)
Manager: Lucien Farve
Titles: 8 league titles, 4 DFB-Pokals, 1 UEFA Champions League, 1 UEFA Cup Winners Cup, 1 Intercontinental Cup
The third-most successful Bundesliga squad, Borussia Dortmund, or BVB, has been the primary challenger to FC Bayern’s domestic domination in the league in recent years. They were the last club not named Bayern to win the league, in 2010 and 2011. Since then, they have been runners-up 4 times. Founded in 1909, BVB has a reputation for a loyal fan base and is home to arguably the best home crowd in the world, the Yellow Wall. Led by wunderkinds Jadon Sancho and Erling Håland, BVB seems destined to have yet another close and exciting battle with fellow top-tier team RB Leipzig in the race for the title.
1st: FC Bayern Munich (14W - 4D - 4L — 55 points)
Pronounced: “buy-urn” Munich
Located: Munich, Bavaria
Stadium: Allianz Arena (75,000)
Nickname: Die Rekordmeister (The Record Champions), FC Hollywood, Die Roten (The Reds)
Manager: Hansi Flick
Titles: 29 Bundesliga titles, 19 DFB-Pokals, 5 UEFA Champions Leagues, 1 UEFA Cup, 1 UEFA Cup Winners Cup, 2 Intercontinental Cups, 1 FIFA Club World Cup
The most decorated side in Germany has a lot to count for in its history. After club members faced persecution as a “Jüdenklub” (“Jews’ club”) under the Nazi regime, Bayern Munich was not among the teams chosen to join the Bundesliga when the league was first formed in 1963. But they made up for it in the years to come. In the next decade, Bayern added four Bundesliga titles, 1 DFB Pokal, and 3 Champions League titles to its trophy cabinets. Players like Sepp Maier, Gerd Müller, and Franz Beckenbauer not only helped Bayern win, but were key in Germany’s 1974 World Cup victory. Through the years, German talents have flocked to Bayern Munich. Names like Paul Breitner, Karl-Heinz Rumminegge, Lothar Matthäus, Steffen Effenberg, Oliver Kahn, Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Muller, and Manuel Neuer have worn the red of Bayern Munich. Bayern have always been a successful, innovative and forward thinking club that puts success over everything.
Tune into our next article tomorrow which will discuss the teams each side loves to hate.