The Bundesliga which translates as the ‘Federal League’ is the highest level of club soccer in Germany and boasts the highest average stadium attendance for a soccer league in the world. This dedicated fan support is partially due to the fact that clubs are still required to be majority owned by club members, a stark difference from the Premier League and Serie A where many clubs are owned by foreign ownership groups, and have some of the lowest ticket prices in Europe. It is truly still the fans game.
The Bundesliga was formed in 1963 and currently features 18 clubs that play every other club home and away over the course of a season that runs from August through May that includes a 6-week winter break from mid-December through mid-January. Teams earn 3 points for a win, 1 point for a draw, and 0 points for a loss.
The winner of the Bundesliga is awarded the Meisterschale (‘Champions trophy’) although it is frequently referred to by the fans as the Salatschüssel (‘Salad bowl’). They automatically qualify for the UEFA Champions League group stage along with the 2nd and 3rd place teams. The 4th place team qualifies for the final Champions League playoff round and must win a home and away tie to qualify for the group stage.
The 5th and 6th place finishers qualify for the UEFA Europa League with the 7th place team entering the Europa League playoff round.
A relegation/promotion system is used in the Bundesliga. The bottom 2 teams are relegated to the Bundesliga 2. The 3rd place Bundesliga team faces the 3rd place Bundesliga 2 team in a ‘relegation playoff’ with the winner of the home and away tie earning a place in the Bundesliga.
Bayern Munich is the most successful club in Bundesliga history but Hamburger SC holds the distinction of being the only club never relegated from the Bundesliga.