Who To Root for in the Bundesliga: A guide to German Fußball, for Philly Sports fans

It feels like this Quarantine has gone on for way too long now. In a city where the world of sports dominates on a day to day basis, this is unusual.  Luckily despite the controversy, Philly Sports fans may have some sort of outlet to distract themselves for a couple of weeks, as the German top-flight soccer league will be returning to action this weekend, marking the first major professional sports league to return to play. Whether or not it’s safe to return to play will, unfortunately, be on stand by to see, regardless in the meantime, we have something to watch! And why not enjoy it?

Mandatory Credit: Kickoff.com

Although the Bundesliga may not be our own like MLS or doesn’t have the dazzle and flair of maybe the Premier League or La Liga, it still has a lot to offer for any Sports fan. If you are anything like me, it’s difficult to get into any Professional Sports league without a rooting interest. So today I will be giving you a guide to the current 18 Bundesliga clubs, a little history, a little fan culture, and similarities to professional American franchises, in hopes to find your true Deutscher Verein (German Club) without further ado, let’s find you a German club, from a Philly Sports fan. 

Bayern Munich (Munchen)

Now look, if you’re looking for a team to follow that is the standard for winning, Like a New York Yankees, Los Angeles Lakers, or Los Angeles Galaxy this is it. By far the most successful in German top-flight Soccer, Most Bundesliga and DFB Pokal Titles, and a long list of impactful players worldwide. Even from their motto “Mia San Mia” which translates to, We are who we are, Bayern is in a wealthy area of the country, they constantly dominate Bundesliga play, and they don’t care. Bayern always needs to be the best, it’s the club standard.

Bayern has always been a club that has wanted to develop the best young German players, including German international legends like Franz Beckenbauer, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Gerd Muller, Oliver Kahn, Sepp Maier, and the list goes on. Bayern fans are worldwide, you can find major groups of fans anywhere on this planet.

  • Bundesliga Titles: 29
  • DFB Pokal Titles: 19
  • 5 Champions League Titles & 1 Europa League Title

Bourissa Dortmund

If you’re not so impressed by Bayern’s flashiness, Dortmund is your next best option. Clearly the second-best club in Germany, but the way they have built this club is impressive. They remind of a Pittsburgh Steelers, Green Bay Packers, Boston Celtics, or a Detroit Redwings, big club in a working-class city. Dortmund has really had most of their success within the last three decades, which saw it start in the Nineties when Dortmund won back to back titles, as well as a Champions League title. Unfortunately in the 2000’s we saw Dortmund suffer financial issues, which ironically Bayern helped them out, and in came the savior of the club, Mr. Jurgen Klopp.

Under Klopp, Dortmund saw some fantastic times, and Klopp developed a powerhouse. Behind players like Robert Lewandowski, Mario Gotze, Marco Reus, Pierre Aubameyang, etc. Klopp recreated the culture, Dortmund played a beautiful brand of soccer, while developing players. If they couldn’t outspend Bayern on players, they were going to out develop them, hence the reason why they have on of the best youth academies in the world and have had success on the pitch. Dortmund fans are also amongst the best of the world, The Yellow wall is known worldwide they are loyal, dedicated, and loud. The Yellow Wall has even influenced MLS Club LAFC!

  • Bundesliga Titles: 8
  • DFB Pokal: 4
  • 1 Champions League

RB Leipzig

Here we have our most interesting club in the Bundesliga today, RB Leipzig, and yes Union fans, don’t get it twisted the RB stands for Red Bull. Leipzig is the younger/older sister of the New York Counterpart, but clearly, in the Red Bull pyramid, Leipzig is a top priority, and it’s starting to pay off. They remind me a lot of a Houston Astros, Vegas Golden Knights, Or Atlanta United, Success out of nowhere and controversy always follows them. This could be the season Leipzig could shut the critics up and win the Bundesliga! This is not bad for a club who in 2009 had no idea that the biggest energy drink company would take them to this point, a club that was all the way down in the fifth division of German Soccer, with the club takeover by Red Bull, we saw them skyrocket all the way to the top flight, In 2016 they finally been promoted to Bundesliga, and never looked back. Since they have been in Bundesliga we never have seen them finish lower than sixth place, and in the first season of Bundesliga play we saw them miss out on a Bundesliga title.

Unfortunately, Bayern ran away with the title. Despite the controversies throughout the country towards the club, one has to acknowledge their ability to develop a squad, Red Bull has created a soccer empire worldwide, with 3 other clubs around the world, essentially a farm system for Leipzig. Through this development, we’ve seen players like Naby Keita, Yussuf Poulsen, Timo Werner, Diego Demme, Dayot Upamecano, Emil Forsberg, Tyler Adams, and the list goes on of players who have improved through the Red Bull ways. The Fans Leipzig are also part of controversy as well, most of Germany criticize the fans for supporting this Red Bull club, but could you blame these people for wanting to see winning Soccer in their hometown. If you like controversy and winning, this is the squad for you!

  • Bundesliga Titles: 0
  • DFB Pokal Titles: 0
  • Have won the fourth division title (Regionalliga Nordost) and the fifth division title (NOFV-Oberliga Süd)

Bourissa Monchengladbach

If you’re looking for a club with history and is always contending in the top five, Monchengladbach is for you. A club that have yet to live up to their glory days in the 1970s when they were the powerhouse of German soccer. They still offer quality soccer for any fan. Like many other German clubs, the emphasis on developing young players is prevalent with Gladbach, From Marco Reus, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Jupp Heynckes (also would become a good manager for Gladbach) and recently Throgan Hazzard.

Fans are also as passionate as they come, loyal and optimistic, not always sure what to think with the club, it seems they at times are poised to win something but come up short. One thing for sure is the fans will forever bleed black and white, with their heart green. This is the perfect time to start supporting Gladbach, as they are in the thick of things as far as the Bundesliga title is concerned.

  • Bundesliga Titles: 5
  • DFB Pokal: 3

Bayer Leverkusen

This is a club very similar to Gladbach, a lot of history, and always competing in the top half of the table. They are owned by a German multinational pharmaceutical and life sciences company, Bayer AG. Unlike RB Leipzig, the other major company running a team, you don’t see a lot of Bayer’s imprint in the club.

Leverkusen has boosted talented players in their history like Stefan Kießling, Ulf Kirsten, Dimitar Berbatov, Cha Bum-Kun, and the newest world-class talent has to be Kai Havertz. This season in European competition we saw Bayer have in impressive champions league group stage, but in a tough group that featured Juve and Atleti, they were relegated to the Europa League where they look to be one of the favorites to win. Looking for a club that competes this is also a good option.

  • Bundesliga Titles: 0
  • DFB Pokal: 1
  • 1 Europa League Trophy

Schalke 04

This club here to me is a club for the Philly Sports fan. Based out of the city Gelsenkirchen, Schalke is a big blue-collar club. The region they are located is known for their coal mining and just hard-working people, its the same motto for the club, they pride themselves in being the hardest working club in Europe, even their tunnel to walk out onto the pitch resembles a Coal mine to remind the players. Despite being a blue-collar city they still are one of the wealthiest clubs in Germany.

Schalke fans, unfortunately, have had their fair share of heartbreaks, and have even seen star players like Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Leroy Sané, Ivan Rakatic, and Manuel Neuer play for bigger clubs. Even as an American you can love this club with US International Weston Mckinnie manning the midfield and former US International David Wagner managing the club. If you’re a passionate fan this is defiantly the club for

  • Bundesliga Titles: 7
  • DFB Pokal: 5
  • 1 Europa League title

VFL Wolfsburg

Another Interesting club who has enjoyed success as early as the late nineties, in 1997 Wolfsburg was promoted into the German Bundesliga and has never looked back. Like RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen, they are owned by a big company, and that is the Volkswagen Automotive company, with their beautiful 18-year-old state of the art stadium named Volkswagen arena, and their main shirt sponsor being Volkswagen, very easy to compare them to Detroit Sports franchise with their affiliation to the automotive industry. 

Wolfsburg in the last two decades has enjoyed witnessing players like Edin Dzecko, Grafite, and my personal favorite Diego Ribas. They will take you on a wild roller coaster ride, however with their success coming later than the clubs ahead of them, who knows what’s next for this club. This season they are in the thick of things as far as Europa League qualification is concerned. 

  • Bundesliga Titles: 1
  • DFB Pokal Titles: 1

TSG 1899 Hoffenheim

Seems like the narrative amongst all these top clubs in today’s modern German game is that these clubs are built developing from within through the youth., and making smart moves, whether you believe in the businesses model of an RB, Bayer, of Wolfsburg, it has helped TSG Hoffenheim. Owned by German Billionaire Dietmar Hopp, Known for being the co-founder and CEO of SAP SE, an international software company, and with the backing of the company, Hopp has been able to grow the club out of as low as the eighth division in the German Soccer period… yikes.

Hopp even had the previous Stadium named after him. Through Slowly building the club like others who have risen from the lower levels, he found the club playing in the  Bundesliga by 2008. In the 11 years that Hoffenheim has been in the Bundesliga, it’s been a bumpy roller coaster ride. We have seen them finish as low as 16, but we’ve also seen them finish as high as third, while also qualifying for champions league in back to back campaigns. During the Bundesliga seasons, we saw young flourishing stars Like Demba Ba, Roberto Firmino, and even had a manager who is regarded as one of the best upcoming managers in the world, in Julian Nagelsman, for Julian this was the first taste of managing a club. Lead by Andrej Kramarić, Kerem Demirbay, and Sandro Wagner, Nagelsman and Hoffenheim reached new clubs no one imagined. Hoffenheim is another small city club looking to shake things up in Bundesliga, who knows what next for them,  which could make it fun to root for.

  • Bundesliga titles: 0
  • DFB Pokal Titles: 0
  • Won Fifth and Fourth Division of German Soccer.

Eintracht Frankfurt

Yes ladies and Gentleman, another underdog team who have seen their fair share of success as of late. If you’re a fan of how teams like the Seattle Seahawks or San Antonio Spurs build teams, then you’ll like Frankfurt. An original Bundesliga Club enjoyed two-and-a-half decades of good soccer. In 1996 it would all change, as they would be relegated for the first time, this would continue a cycle of back and forth relegation and promotion between the two top divisions, as well as finical issues.

Since 2012 they have made Bundesliga a home and have also given us some memorable squads, including the 2017-2018 Pokal title over Bayern Munchen, a squad that included one of the deadliest front lines all-time, Das magische Dreieck (The Magic Triangle) Including Sebastian Haller, Luka Jovic, and Ante Rebic, Lead by Croatian Manager,  Niko Kovač. The fans of Frankfurt are some of the rowdiest fans of Germany, think of the Black Hole in Oakland, x10. You like a club that transcends sports in pop culture this is your club. 

  • Bundesliga Titles: 1
  • DFB Pokal: 5
  • 1 Europa League Title

Werder Bremen

Finally, the moment I’ve been waiting for, and that is to discuss my current rooting interest in Germany, Werder Bremen. The club has a long history of consistency, and is even the second most successful club in the DFB Pokal, only behind Bayern. For Bremen fans one season will never be forgotten amongst them, that’s 2004 when the club won the double, winning both the DFB Pokal and the Bundesliga title on the third to last matchday, beating Bayern in Bayern, to hoist their first Bundesliga title since 1993.

For me what sold me was the logo, the players that have passed, whether it be Kevin De Bruyne, Mezuit Ozil, Aílton, or long-tenured club legend Claudio Pizzaro, and most importantly the fans. These fans of Werder are as open as they come, and have a unique matchday experience, including the best goal song in the Bundesliga. unfortunately this season, things have no gone their way… They haven’t been able to find their stride this season and have fallen in the automatic relegation zone. They currently sit in 17th, four points back of the playoff spot, and eight points back of safety. It will be an interesting storyline to follow, whether or not Werder can survive or not.

  • Bundesliga Titles: 4
  • DFB Pokal Titles: 6

SC Freiburg

Another Underdog with Freiburg, who has been up and down this season but has been in the top five for most of the season. That is the story of this club, a club that saw the Bundesliga in the nineties and has been bouncing back and forth between first and second divisions ever since. These days they are lead by manager Christian Streich who has been with the club for 9 seasons! This club reminds me of the Indiana Pacers, RSL, or even a Winnipeg Jets They’re a smaller, pesky team that always plays hard. If you want an underdog squad that plays hard, with a beautiful landscape over a soccer ground, Freiburg is the club for you. The Skys the limit for these clubs.

  • Bundesliga Titles: 0
  • DFB Pokal Titles: 0
  • 4 Second Divison Trophies

Hertha Berlin

We got a club from the capital of the country, and one of the oldest clubs in the Bundesliga, hence why they play in an Olympic style stadium. If you’re a female looking for a club, maybe this is the one for you, as the name Hertha is the German name for women. Unfortunately for the Hertha not a lot of success in its past, for a huge city with a lot of passionate fans, you could call this club the New York Knicks, Washington Redskins, or even the Los Angeles Clippers (Before Khawi) This season the Roller Coaster ride took an interesting turn… first started with the appointment of a manager Americans know very well, and that Jurgen Klinsmann. Next up Berlin signed Milan cast-off Krzysztof Piątek. So far the club is sitting on the 13th. The city, the stadium, and the fans are enough to entice you, but if you don’t feel like being tortured, maybe this isn’t the club for you.

  • Bundesliga title: 2 (Pre Bundesliga) 
  • DFB Pokal: 0
  • 3 time second division champions

FC Koln

The best nickname in Germany has to go to Koln because there’s nothing better than the Billygoats! Based out the city of Cologne, FC Koln is enjoying their first season back to the top flight of German Soccer, after spending some time in the second division. Over the last three decades, we saw Köln go on a crazy roller coaster ride, the longest scoreless fraught in Bundesliga history, no clear structure with continuous firing and hiring of managers and sporting directors. This season they have been entertaining to watch, lead by the goal scoring of John Cordoba. Koln currently sits in the tenth and are 4 points behind I the race for a Europa League playoff qualification. 

  • Bundesliga Titles: 2
  • DFB Pokal: 4
  • Four time second division champ

Union Berlin

No Union fans, this club has no affiliation with our Philadelphia Union. They reside in the capital, Berlin. Union Berlin is currently in their first-ever season in the top flight of German Soccer. However Union Berlin is much more than soccer, it’s a way of life. A club built for the working people, they’ve always done things their way, and for the fans, it’s more than soccer it’s about doing what the people want, be free, with your Union family. The connection between the club and fans is very unique. In Union Berlin’s first season in Bundesliga, we’ve seen this club very much hold their own, as they are sitting in 11th. If you’re for a club with a deep meaning I recommend Union Berlin. 

  • Bundesliga Titles: 0
  • DFB Pokal: 0

Mainz 05

Mainz has to be the ultimate stomping grounds for managers recently, as this club gave the start to two of the most respected managers in today’s game with Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tucel. With Jürgen Klopp being a club legend as a manager and a player. The club doesn’t have a lot of history as they have bounced around the lower levels of German soccer. Luckily under Klopp, they were able to get to the Bundesliga in 2004. 2010 would be the last time Mainz would be promoted into the Bundesliga, and have stayed there ever since. Things could change in this return to play, they currently are sitting in 15th safe from relegation, but their spot certainly is not safe. Besides developing two of today’s best managers, I don’t have any other rooting interests for you to become a fan of Mainz.

  • Bundesliga titles: 0
  • DFB-POKAL: 0

FC Augsburg

The Closest team to Bayern as they are both from Bavaria in the top flight, Augsburg have enjoyed the top flight since 2011. This is another one of these clubs that in its history they have been bouncing around the lower levels of German soccer, but seems to have found a place as of late in the Bundesliga. Although since 2011 they haven’t been able to find a way to stay competitive amongst the top teams, this fan base truly has an absolute love for the club,  a very unique matchday experience.  If you’re looking for a good vibe club in the beautiful Bavarian country, Augsburg is your club.

  • Bundesliga Titles: 0
  • DFB Pokal: 0

Fortuna Düsseldorf

Here we have a club enjoying their season back to the Bundesliga, who oddly enough got their name from a bakery…? A smaller club with longevity in the German game, are best known for their DFB Pokal success in the late ’70s. They are a mother club that has been bouncing around with promotion and relegation, but they have the small club feel where the fans are a small community. This season Americans have been keeping an eye on this club as Düsseldorf has the future of America between the pipes in Zach Steffen, who is on loan from Manchester City, however, you’re going to have to wait to watch him play as he suffered an injury during the quarantine. Looking for a small club in a big city with passion this is your club!

  • Bundesliga titles: 1 (German Title)
  • DFB Pokal: 2

Paderborn FC

last but not least guys, we have Paderborn, a club with honestly a pretty cool name, and another story of triumph. In 2014 we saw this club get promoted into Bundesliga but after one season in the top-flight, they would get sent back down, and would suffer relegation the next two seasons! With the help of 1860 Munich, Paderborn survived being sent to the fourth division and miraculously after that Paderborn were promoted the two seasons, which is where we are at today, Paderborn making it back to Bundesliga! Unfortunately though seems the wild roller coaster ride that is Paderborn will continue, as they are in dead last place as we speak. If you want a crazy roller Coaster ride Paderborn is the club for you! 

  • Bundesliga titles: 0
  • DFB Pokal Tittles: 0
  • One third division title 

There you have it guys, my full guide of all eighteen Bundesliga clubs, I hope I helped make your decision a little bit easier. Regardless of whether or not you have a team, the Bundesliga is worth your time, simply because there are no other sports going on and it’s a good product on the pitch.

You noticed the theme in Germany outside of Bayern that the underdog/hard-working mentality is prevalent with a lot of the clubs, and you still have parody from the hated clubs that are run by corporations, either way, all these clubs are built similarly, hardworking style of play, and developing from within. Enjoy this weekend’s matches, and we’ll talk soon!

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Mandatory Credit: Kickoff.com

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