2. Bundesliga: the greatest second-tier league in the world

Jason Rodgers

Whilst it may not get much, if any, media coverage in the UK, there’s a lot to admire about the German Second Division, more commonly known as 2. Bundesliga. The wide opinion is that the Championship is the best second-tier league in the world, but Germany’s equivalent offers up a great fight for that crown.

There are several sleeping giants trying to make their way back to the top stuck in 2. Bundesliga. Whilst Stuttgart and Hannover 96 were able to secure promotion back to the top flight this season, 1860 Munich, a founding member of the Bundesliga, were relegated even further back into the third tier of German football.

FC Kaiserslauten only finished 13th in the league this season yet they are a four-time winner of the German top league. Just 18 years ago they were playing in the Champions League quarter-final and they even rank 10th overall in all-time Bundesliga points. Other significant clubs in 2. Bundesliga include former league winners FC Nürnberg and Eintracht Braunschweig.

Ten clubs in 2. Bundesliga had attendances over 20000 last season, with the overall average at 21747. That’s higher than last season’s Championship average at 20119 and again highlights how the fan-friendly nature of German football has continued to attract huge crowds.

Whilst this figure was boosted by how well supported Stuttgart and Hannover are, it’s also important to note that attendances in 2. Bundesliga have been high for years. To buy a season ticket at Nürnberg, one of the most well-supported clubs in the league, would set you back around £210. Compare that to the Championship where most season tickets will cost over £300 and you can see why fans turn up in numbers.

Teams in the 2. Bundesliga play a fast, high-pressing, counter-attacking style that is synonymous with German football. You only have to look at a 5-4 thriller between Bochum and Nürnberg to see how exciting and dramatic the league can be.

Then there are the players; Ohis Felix Uduokhai may have been relegated from the league playing for 1860 Munich but despite that it’s likely he’ll be playing in the Bundesliga soon. The 19-year-old defender made 21 appearances for the club last season, and was praised by many for his slick passing and distribution of the ball. 1860 Munich’s youth system in general has been exemplary, bringing through stars like the Bender twins, Kevin Volland and Fabian Johnson.

Another potential future star of the Bundesliga is Berkay Özcan; the 19-year-old Turkish midfielder played a significant role in helping Stuttgart back to top flight last season, and has been prominent at all levels of the Turkish youth national teams. How he’ll step up this season will be an intriguing storyline to follow alongside the Bundesliga season.

Several good young managers are learning their trade in 2. Bundesliga. Title winners Stuttgart are managed by 36-year-old Hannes Wolf. Wolf spent his playing career down in the German lower leagues and was forced to retire early. Fortunately his managerial career has so far been a lot more successful. He plied his trade with the Borussia Dortmund youth and reserve teams and in his first season as Stuttgart manager, has achieved the best possible outcome.

Domenico Tedesco is another promising young manager who developed his skills in 2. Bundesliga last season. The 31-year-old Italian took over at Erzgebirge Aue in March, with the team at the time struggling badly at the bottom of the table. However, an incredible 13 points from his first five games in charge helped the club to relatively comfortable survival, eventually finishing 14th. Tedesco’s reward was the offer of a two-year contract to manage Schalke next season. It will be very interesting to see how successful the Italian is at the usual European football contenders.

If you ever get a chance to experience German football then the 2. Bundesliga is a great place to start. The league provides cheap, exciting and competitive football and is often the place where great players and managers develop into top talents.

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