As Bundesliga returns in Germany, here’s how to pick a team, from Bayern Munich to the bottom of the table


What a week soccer fans have to look forward to with the highly anticipated return of the Bundesliga on Saturday. The German top flight, one of the best leagues in the world, will be the first major soccer league to return since the coronavirus pandemic shut down sports in March. Games, of course, will be without any spectators. 

The action starts on Saturday morning, highlighted by Borussia Dortmund vs. Schalke in arguably the country’s best rivalry. As kickoff nears, some of you probably have a team you already support. But for those fans still undecided or looking to find out more about Bundesliga teams, let’s go through this together.

There are many factors to consider, from history to players, from jersey colors to stadiums. Perhaps you find a connection to a club through a specific city, or maybe it’s wanting to follow a club that has American players.

Here’s what to know about each team and why you should support them.

The big boys

Bayern Munich

Nickname: Die Roten (The Reds)
League titles: 29 (most all-time)
Player to watch: Robert Lewandowski
Making the case: The biggest and most successful club in all of Germany, Bayern Munich is one of the top clubs in all of Europe and the world. If you want a team that will win trophy after trophy and always compete in the Champions League, look no further. The team is loaded all over the field with some of the world’s best players, and it regularly invests in top talent. Bayern has guys like David Alaba and Joshua Kimmich at the back, while also boasting players like Serge Gnabry and Lewandowski in attack. There are reasons for Americans and Canadians to support them. For Americans, young defender and USMNT prospect Chris Richards is stating his case to get called into the first team at some point soon, while Canadian star Alphonso Davies is becoming a regular starter at the club with his elite speed and ability to contribute at both ends of the field. 

Borussia Dortmund

Nickname: Die Schwarzgelben (The black-yellows)
League titles: 8
Player to watch: Erling Haaland
Making the case for them: The second-biggest club in the land, Dortmund is known for its ridiculously dedicated fan base, the chances its provides young players for their development and just an electric, high-scoring style of play. Dortmund has a handful of the top young players in the world like striker Erling Haaland and Jadon Sancho, both of whom are widely considered among the top 10 players under the age of 21. This is where American Christian Pulisic became a big name. Next in line is sensational American talent Gio Reyna, who has become a regular contributor at 17. Reyna is the top American soccer prospect. If you want a fun, exciting team to watch, there’s no better pick.

RB Leipzig

Nickname: Die Rotten Bullen (The Red Bulls)
League titles: 0
Player to watch: Timo Werner
Making the case for them: RB Leipzig was founded just 10 years ago and has quickly climbed the ranks from the fifth tier of German soccer all the way to the top flight thanks to the financial backing of Red Bull. The team isn’t well liked by any of the other clubs in Germany because of its story of ascension, but it’s hard to find clubs with more talent. RB Leipzig has so many young stars like striker Timo Werner, and once again there is an American presence with young midfielder Tyler Adams. RB Leipzig is turning into a club that regularly plays in European competition and continues to push for trophies, while still looking for its first major one.

The second tier 

Borussia Monchengladbach

Nickname: Die Fohlen (The Foals)
League titles:  5
Player to watch: Alassane Plea
Making the case for them: By far the coolest and longest name in the Bundesliga, Borussia Monchengladbach is a club that is looking to revive itself and contend like it did in the 1970s when it dominated the league with five titles in less than 10 years. A club that has a fine scouting department and brings in some of the more underrated talent in Europe, the team has been improving since 2017 to become a regular in the top half of the table. This isn’t a club you expect to regularly contend for trophies, but at least the dream of glory is there and perhaps one day attainable. They also have a young coach in Marco Rose who continues to impress everywhere he goes and learned a bit playing under current Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp. Former USMNT defender Fabian Johnson plays at the club.

Bayer Leverkusen

Nickname: Die Werkself (The working eleven)
League titles: 0
Player to watch: Kai Havertz
Making the case for them: Leverkusen has been among the top five clubs in the league for about three decades despite not a lot to show for it in terms of titles. A blue-collar club despite wearing red and black, the consistency in league play has seen them finish in the top four seven times in the last 10 seasons. Currently, the club boasts attacking midfielder/winger Kai Havertz, who is up there with the likes of Dortmund’s Haaland and Sancho, while being courted by the biggest clubs in the world. Leverkusen is a club that plays in the Champions League often and craves a trophy. If it happens, expect a celebration like no other.

Schalke

Nickname: Konigsblauen (Royal Blues)
League titles:  7
Player to watch: Weston McKennie
Making the case for them: This is an easy one. If you are a fan of American soccer, why not go with arguably one of the most talented United States men’s national team players in McKennie and support a club with a rich history that is looking to revive those glory years? Schalke, known for its hard-working mentality and rich, royal blue colors, is the local rival of Borussia Dortmund and a club to watch in the coming years. Led by a coach who also played for the USMNT in David Wagner, it makes too much sense. McKennie is a rising star in the league and regularly starts. After nearly being relegated last year, Schalke is well on its way to a top-six finish and possibly playing in European competitions next season. 

Wolfsburg

Nickname: Die Wolfe (The Wolves)
League titles:  1
Player to watch: John Brooks
Making the case for them: Wolves are awesome animals, so that’s enough in itself with the team boasting the nickname. They’ve got really cool jerseys and became Bundesliga champs for the first time just over a decade ago. Since 2008, they’ve found some stability and success, winning the German Cup for the first time in 2015 while struggling in the years after before a strong sixth-place finish last season. Top American defender John Brooks also plays for Wolfsburg.

Freiburg

Nickname: Die Breisgauer (From the region of Breisgau)
League titles:  0
Player to watch: Robin Koch
Making the case for them: This club wasn’t a Bundesliga regular until the early 1990s and has been relegated four times since. Still, Freiburg has been impressive in finding stability and is on its way to avoiding relegation for the fourth straight season while pushing for a Europa League spot. With no major trophies, this club is an underdog that will give everything on the pitch to make loyal fans proud, focusing on a mentality that defense must be the priority. 

Hoffenheim

Nickname: Die Kraichgauer (From the region of Kraichgau)
League titles:  0
Player to watch: Andrej Kramaric
Making the case for them: In 2000, this was a fifth-division club. Hoffenheim has since quickly jumped into the Bundesliga, sort of like RB Leipzig but with a much more tamed domestic consistency. Major investments from owner Dietmar Hopp have helped this club become a Bundesliga regular with serious potential, evident by its third-place finish in 2017-18 and qualification for the Champions League. Kramaric is the team’s go-to scorer with 65 goals in 145 games. With more investment, this club could potentially become a top 4-6 club moving forward as long as the chemistry is right, which could pay off with trophies down the road. 

Middle of the road

Koln

Nickname: Die Geißböcke (The Billy Goats)
League titles:  3
Player to watch: Jhon Cordoba
Making the case for them: Find a cooler nickname than The Billy Goats. Don’t worry, you won’t. With a 50,000-seat arena and having just come back up from the second division, the club finds itself in a fine spot with no relegation concerns in 2020. Despite a slow start to the season with just two wins through 14 games, the club went on to win eight of its next 11 before the coronavirus pandemic stopped play. Koln’s fine run of form has led to a high anticipation when the season returns this weekend with three very winnable games to start. Don’t look now, but The Billy Goats could make their way up the mountain with some strong results out of the gate. The club also has an American presence with goalkeeper Brady Scott. 

Union Berlin

Nickname: Eisern Union (Iron Union)
League titles:  0
Player to watch: Sebastian Andersson
Making the case for them: The capital club is one of the new faces as this is its first season in the German top flight. Union Berlin is the first club from the former East Berlin to play in the Bundesliga. The way the club got into the top flight was intense and wild, getting by Stuttgart in the relegation playoffs last season on goal differential. They are underdogs who are punching well above their weight and here to stay. 

Eintracht Frankfurt

Nickname: Die Adler (The Eagles)
League titles:  1
Player to watch: David Abraham
Making the case for them: No team looks cooler with Eintracht boasting the best jerseys in all of Germany. A regular in the Bundesliga and winners of the 2017-18 German Cup, the Eagles have a mix of veterans and young guys looking to prove their worth. They are super strong at home and not quite what they want to be on the road, but there is potential for this team to regularly be a top-six club if it pushes the right buttons. The recent cup success has made their fans believe more is to come, building excitement for the future. Former USMNT player Timmy Chandler is on the squad.

Hertha Berlin

Nickname: Die Alte Dame (The Old Lady)
League titles: 2
Player to watch: Krzysztof Piatek
Making the case for them: The biggest club in the German capital, Hertha has had some fine years in the past with talents like Marcelinho dazzling fans and frustrating Bundesliga opponents, but a suffering fan base craves an end to the trophy drought. Hertha hasn’t won a major trophy since 1931 but there is reason to be excited after bringing in some really talented players like Krzysztof Piatek from AC Milan and Santiago Ascacibar from Stuttgart. A team with pace and strength, the belief is that if it can fix its defensive woes, Hertha can become a more consistent team with better years ahead. 

Underdogs

Augsburg

Nickname: Die Fuggerstädter (honors a famous family of Augsburg)
League titles: 0
Player to watch: Philipp Max
Making the case for them: An impressive rise to the Bundesliga in 2011, Augsburg has been here ever since despite flirting with relegation often. This is another one of those seasons with a five-point cushion over the relegation playoff spot. The defense may have its issues, but on the plus side, every single game is huge, and draws can sometimes be celebrated like victories.

Mainz

Nickname: Die Nullfünfer (The Zerofivers)
League titles: 0
Player to watch: Robin Quaison
Making the case for them: Mainz, which has been in the Bundesliga for 11 straight seasons, is a club that Liverpool’s Klopp helped bring stability to en route to Bundesliga promotion. With one of the newer stadiums in Germany in the Opel Arena, the team famously plays the famous German carnival tune “Narrhallamarsch” every time it scores a goal at home. This season, there has been a lack of consistency that has raised concerns.

Fortuna Dusseldorf

Nickname: Die Flingeraner
League titles: 1
Player to watch: Zack Steffen
Making the case for them: This team has two USMNT players who start in goalkeeper Steffen and midfielder Alfredo Morales. The club, just promoted this season, was established back in 1895, and this current edition has to claw and scratch for every single point. Currently in 16th place where it would play in a relegation playoff against the third-place team from the second division, Fortuna Dusseldorf can still be safe with some wins to end the season. There is no doubt Steffen is the top USMNT goalkeeper, and he gets to stay busy with a defense in front of him that allows a lot of shots. The club is often involved in some of the most entertaining matches, and let’s admit, it’s a cool team name. 

Werder Bremen

Nickname: Die Grün-Weißen (The Green-Whites)
League titles: 4
Player to watch: Josh Sargent
Making the case for them: A proud club with a long history in the Bundesliga, Bremen is in the biggest fight its had in the last four decades. If you want a potential American hero story, this is it. Bremen is eight points from safety, and four points from the relegation playoff, with 10 games to go. It’s unlikely the team will be able to find safety with 16th place probably the ceiling. But Sargent could change that. The young American striker is on the team with the lowest goal-scoring output in the league. He’s got three goals in 18 Bundesliga games this season. Can the St. Louis native be the difference maker?

Looking for a miracle

Paderborn

Nickname: N/A
League titles: 0
Player to watch: Sebastian Vasiliadis
Making the case for them: If you like miracles, Paderborn is looking to perform one. The club has to be near perfect to finish the season if it wants to avoid relegation. Paderborn is 10 points from safety with 27 points left. Mission impossible? No. But the group has seen some years with serious turbulence and 2019-20 is no different. Paderborn is the biggest underdog in the top flight at the moment and looking to score some big upsets to survive. Expect no team to give more the rest of the way. A couple early victories could change everything.





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