While U.S. sports may not have recovered, the Bundesliga and the 2. Bundesliga are in full swing. The top two tiers of German soccer returned to action last weekend and will do so again this weekend, giving sports-starved fans around the world something to watch.
Not all fans are familiar with the hallowed history of the Bundesliga and its professional clubs, though. This is a golden opportunity to build some spontaneous sports passion, and here is a guide to just a few of the many teams at the top of German soccer.
Bayern is the empire of the Bundesliga. A perennial contender, the Bavarian club has won 29 league titles. It is a paragon of success in German soccer, and if you’re used to rooting for winning teams, Bayern Munich is the side to barrack for.
Led in the attack by veterans Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Müller, kept safe by goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and overflowing with young talent such as Serge Gnabry, Benjamin Pavard and budding Canadian winger Alphonso Davies, Bayern displays energetic play and plenty of goals.
Your friends may never forgive you for supporting such a strong club. Shade will be thrown. Some may even allege “bandwagoning.” But, well, they haven’t won seven straight Bundesliga titles. If you want to see a venerable, blue-blood winner and join a passionate fan base, the list starts in Munich.
U.S. sports comparisons: New York Yankees, Los Angeles Lakers
Dortmund is everyone’s second favorite team, known for its high-flying, entertaining attack developed by now-Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp at the beginning of the decade, and maintained today by the likes of Jadon Sancho, Erling Haaland and club legend Marco Reus.
But Dortmund is more than just an attacking machine. Its fans are some of the best in the business, known around the world for the Yellow Wall, an imposing grandstand at the Westfalenstadion, which at first glance appears simply to be an infinite well of passion and earth-shattering noise. You’ve heard of Seattle’s “12th man”? Imagine that, but in German with yellow and black.
But Borussia Dortmund has also maintained a shrewd approach to player development. In an era where most clubs spend heavily to acquire superstars, Dortmund does the opposite. A talented scouting department finds youthful talent and has turned out some of the greatest players of this generation, only to sell them on and make a handsome profit.
The aforementioned Lewandowski, as well as the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ousmane Dembélé and Ilkay Gündogan, have all spent time in Dortmund, which has also fielded some of the best American players. Christian Pulisic started his career in Germany, and rising star Gio Reyna is stepping into the spotlight at Borussia Dortmund.
U.S. sports comparisons: Seattle Seahawks, Oakland Athletics, Pittsburgh Steelers
The new blood, a shocking success story, “the most hated team in Germany” — all of these terms could be, and are, used to describe RB Leipzig.
This iteration of the club has existed for just more than a decade and has garnered both praise and ire. Leipzig’s meteoric rise to the top is a story rarely witnessed in European football, as the team has catapulted itself from the German fifth division to the Bundesliga in just eight seasons. Along the way, it’s turned obscure players into superstars — Timo Werner, Marcel Sabitzer, Emil Forsberg and American midfielder Tyler Adams are just a few of the players who have garnered praise at the club.
But Leipzig’s patronage and ownership model by the Red Bull company has also brought distrust and dislike from many German clubs, which are almost entirely fan-owned enterprises. Most Bundesliga clubs are community affairs, entrenched in the cities they represent with the supporters and history to boot.
Whether you consider its story to be that of disruptive new money or a scrappy underdog will determine where your support lies, but RB Leipzig’s success has been undeniable regardless.
U.S. sports comparisons: New England Patriots, Vegas Golden Knights
Oh, how the times have changed. Last season, Frankfurt was a team on the rise. The club had finished in the top half of the table for two consecutive seasons. Frankfurt’s roster had two of the top 10 scorers in the Bundesliga in Luka Jović and Sébastien Haller.
But the good times couldn’t last. Jović departed to Real Madrid and Haller was snatched up by West Ham, where neither have been nearly as successful. The parting has been equally hard on Eintracht Frankfurt, which finds itself in 13th place this season, closer than comfortable to the relegation zone.
Supporting Eintracht Frankfurt may not bring the same instant gratification as some of the above clubs, but its roster brings potential in the likes of goalkeeper Kevin Trapp and forward André Silva, as well as some veteran journeymen in Bas Dost, Sebastian Rode and American Timothy Chandler.
Frankfurt is far from perfect, but the club sports some sweet uniforms, and no one will dream of calling you a bandwagoner.
U.S. sports comparisons: Oklahoma City Thunder, Cleveland Cavaliers
FC St. Pauli
St. Pauli is not a powerhouse. It’s not a title favorite, and it sits in the 2. Bundesliga, the second tier of German football. You might like St. Pauli regardless, though, if you’re that kind of fan.
St. Pauli’s fan badge was recently categorized under “Left Wing Signs & Symbols Aid” by the U.K. police. That kind of fan. The club’s supporters are known for their political activism, as well as their punk and leftist culture. That kind of fan.
The club has the words “No Football for Fascists” scrawled across its stands. One look on the team store will confirm St. Pauli’s more than liberal leanings and raucous, loud and liberal voices. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but if it’s yours, then boy, have we got the team for you.
The fifth rule for St. Pauli’s supporters clubs summarizes the team succinctly: “Supporters clubs oppose all forms of discrimination against people, all forms of racism, sexism and hooliganism, and all forms of disparagement and discrimination against same-sex preferences and tendencies.”
If that is your fight, then St. Pauli will fight with you.