The Bundesliga is the primary football league in Germany. It comprises of 18 teams, with the bottom two teams being relegated to the second tier, the 2. Bundesliga, and the 16th-placed team playing a two-legged playoff against the third-placed team in the 2.Bundesliga to determine the final spot in the league for the following season. It was founded in 1963, with 56 clubs having played at least one season in the Bundesliga since then.
Bayern Munich has been the dominant club in the Bundesliga era, winning 28 titles. It has the highest average attendance of any football league in the world, and at the moment, is ranked third in UEFA’s league coefficient rankings, based on performances in European competitions over the past five seasons.
The Bundesliga, and German clubs in general, are renowned for their close association and partnership with fans. Bundesliga clubs have the lowest average ticket prices of the five major European football leagues, and this owes itself to the 50+1 rule that clubs must adhere to. Bundesliga clubs have to be majority-owned by their own members, through 50% of shares + 1 share, to protect the interests of the fans and members over the influence of external investors. This rule has allowed close cooperation between fans and clubs, with most fan concerns being heard and acted upon promptly by Bundesliga clubs. There are also restrictions on debt, meaning that the majority of Bundesliga clubs are profitable, and not reliant on bailouts from cash-rich owners or investors.
There are three exceptions to the 50+1 rule at the moment – VfL Wolfsburg, 1899 Hoffenheim and Bayer Leverkusen. While Leverkusen and Wolfsburg were formed by Bayer AG and Volkswagen respectively as works teams for their employees, Hoffenheim has received the majority of its financial support from Dietmar Hopp, the co-founder of the software firm SAS and a former youth player for the club.
The most well-known teams in the Bundesliga are Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. Bayern is one of the most famous clubs in the world, with their sustained success giving them millions of fans over the world, while Dortmund’s recent success has caused a sharp rise in support outside Germany. Other notable clubs include Bayer Leverkusen, Borussia Monchengladbach and FC Schalke 04.
Some of the best players in the world, past and present, have played in the Bundesliga. Franz Beckenbauer, captain of Germany’s 1974 World Cup-winning team, played the majority of his career in the Bundesliga for Bayern Munich. He won the World Cup again as coach of the Germany side in 1990, becoming, at that time, only the second person to do so. The likes of Paul Breitner, Gunter Netzer and Gerd Muller were all part of that squad, and are considered some of the greatest German players ever. All of them played their entire careers in the Bundesliga. Indeed, the Bundesliga has seen the best of German talent, with a vast majority of them playing for Bayern Munich, while Borussia Monchengladbach also had their share of top German talent during their heyday in the 1970s.
In more recent times, some of the top players playing in the Bundesliga are Robert Lewandowski, Manuel Neuer, Marco Reus, Jadon Sancho, Timo Werner, and Kai Havertz. Lewandowski is probably the best out-and-out striker in the world, with a stupendous scoring record for Bayern Munich, as well as Borussia Dortmund before that. He has already reached 227 goals in the Bundesliga, placing him third on the all-time scorer’s list with a 0.73 goals/game ratio. That ratio is second only to Gerd Muller, who scored his 365 goals at an astonishing 0.85 goals/game rate, to be at the top of the all-time Bundesliga goalscoring charts.
Manuel Neuer is the captain of the German national side, and has long been considered the best goalkeeper of modern times, due to his ability to ‘sweep’ up behind his defensive line and start attacking moves, in addition to his brilliant goalkeeping ability. Marco Reus has been one of the most influential attackers in recent years in the Bundesliga, and only some serious injuries have prevented him from having an even greater impact. Sancho, Werner and Havertz are some of the best young players in the world, let alone the Bundesliga, and all three are being touted with big-money transfers on account of their performances in the league over the last few seasons.
The Bundesliga is the most fan-friendly league in Europe, perhaps in the world. Added to this, the stadiums have electrifying atmospheres, and teams play scintillating attacking football, with German coaches renowned and sought-after for their style of play. All of this makes the Bundesliga one of the top football leagues in the world.