Smart responses to the coronavirus pandemic from the Bundesliga (and its home country of Germany) have allowed Germany’s top league to return to action in mid-May. It looks at though Bayern Munich will repeat as champions, thanks to its May 26 hard-fought win over rivals Borussia Dortmund, but the fight for the rest of Germany’s Champions League places should be keen.
Bundesliga soccer represents a return to the sport’s highest level. For American fans who haven’t yet dove in, as the Premier League, La Liga, and even MLS all wait to resume, it’s a league worth checking out.
What is the Bundesliga?
Created in 1963 from a number of regional leagues—partially in response to being knocked out of the 1962 World Cup in the quarters—the Bundesliga houses Germany’s top club teams into one 18-team league. It’s typical of major European leagues, in that each team plays home and away matches against all the other teams in the league, teams get three points for a win and one point for a draw, and the August-through-May season determines the league winner. (There’s no playoff system, though, like other European leagues, there’s a separate elimination cup tournament that runs during the season.)
There’s also a promotion and relegation system: The bottom two teams automatically drop to the second division, replaced by the top two teams in the 2. Bundesliga. The 16th-place team gets to play for its Bundesliga life in a playoff against 2. Bundesliga’s third-place finisher.
Where did the season leave off?
In March, as the Bundesliga and the other major soccer leagues in the world stopped play, Bayern Munich held a four-point lead over Borussia Dortmund and a five-point lead over RB Leipzig. That’s a very close race, with nine matches in the season remaining, among some decidedly bitter rivals.
The league also has teams alive in the Champions League as well: Leipzig got its Round of 16 win in over Tottenham Hotspur before tournament play stopped and is on to the quarterfinals. Barring a big Chelsea comeback in the second leg, Bayern looks to do the same. Dortmund made the Round of 16 but was dispatched by Paris Saint-Germain.
Why is the Bundesliga worth checking out?
Germany is quite accomplished as soccer—witness Die Mannschaft, its men’s national team, and the four World Cups it’s won as recently as 2014. It stands to reason, then, that its top league is one of the world’s best. The Bundesliga’s appeal goes far beyond Germany, though: Bayern Munich is one of the best club teams in the world featuring a truly international lineup, and a number of other teams have players you recognize from recent World Cups, Euros, and Copa Americas.
As a bonus for American fans, some of the U.S.’s best young players are developing in this world-class league.
Bundesliga live stream: How to watch Bundesliga matches online
This is the last season (for the time being) that Fox will carry the league; you’ll find most of the action on FS1 and FS2 during the year. Fox will carry some higher-profile matches during the season, tending to grab the twice-a-season Der Klassiker between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. If you’re looking to watch en Español, Fox Deportes and TUDN carry select games on their networks.
For a more à la carte service, look to Sling TV. It offers two cable packages, Sling Orange and Sling Blue, each of which costs $30 per month. If you grab them both (Sling Orange + Blue) you can save $10 per month. Sling Blue offers more bang for your buck with over 40 channels, including sports necessities like FS1, NBCSN, and NFL Network. You’ll also gain access to the usual cable mainstays like Food Network, Discovery, Cartoon Network, SYFY, and FXX. Whichever package you choose, you can save $10 on your first month. Here’s the complete guide to Sling TV channels.
Sling’s now offering a 14-day free trial though July 6.
FuboTV was built from the ground up with sports fans in mind. There are different channel packages available whether you’re looking for basketball, soccer, golf, or even outdoor sports like rock climbing. But no worries, all the great cable channels you’re after are here too, including Viceland, Bravo, TBS, and IFC.
Hulu Live TV is one of the most popular ways to stream live TV, perhaps because you gain access to a massive library of on-demand content including classic and current TV shows, movies, not to mention Hulu’s original programming. As far as live-streaming goes, you’ll have a ton of local, entertainment, and sports channels to flip through, including HGTV, a full suite of ESPN channels, Cartoon Network, FX, and even deep cuts like Nat Geographic and Syfy.
There’s a good chance that you’re already looking to AT&T for your wireless needs. The second you sign up, you’ll gain instant access to 45+ channels, including local channels and even free HBO in the Plus and Max channel suites. Plus, it comes with CloudDVR, which lets you record up to 20 hours of TV per month. One account works on two devices, but you can add more devices for only $5.
Vidgo offers a package for under $40 a month that pulls together more than 60 English-language channels into its National English Package, including ABC, Fox, the Disney family of channels, the ESPN family of channels (including ESPN Deportes), FS1, FS2, Fox Deportes and BeIN Sports. It offers an array of entertainment favorites, including A&E, HGTV, History, Lifetime, and a full range of Nickelodeon channels, including TeenNick and NickToons.
College sports fans will love it, too: The ACCN, Big Ten Network, the Longhorn Network, and Pac-12 Network are all on the Core package, and for $10 more, the Plus package offers all six market-specific Pac-12 Networks.
YouTube TV is a great solution for families because one subscription can add up to six accounts, and each account comes with unlimited cloud DVR. You can’t beat the variety, either: There are sports channels like NBCSN, NBA TV, and four ESPN channels, while Disney, Disney XD, Disney Junior, and Cartoon Network will keep any kid (or kid at heart) busy for hours. It also comes with a few Spanish-language channels like Telemundo and NBC Universo. AMC, BBC America, and IFC are there too, so you won’t miss out on all that prestige TV. (You can find the full list of YouTube TV channels here.)
Which Bundesliga teams should I know?
Any getting-to-know-the-Bundesliga conversation should start with Bayern Munich, winner of the last seven titles and eight of the last 10. It does it largely by amassing superior talent: Sometimes from Bundesliga rivals, though it’s a truly global team in both the lineup and appeal. While German national team players like Manuel Neuer, Thomas Muller, and Leon Goretza contribute, their current roster includes French defender Benjamin Pavard, whose physics-defying goal in the 2018 World Cup raised his profile, and Canadian midfielder Alphonso Davies, a promising young player who came of age for the Vancouver Whitecaps.
For American fans, Borussia Dortmund has been a must-watch in recent years as Christian Pulisic—arguably the best U.S. player in a generation—came of age with the team. He moved to the Premier League this summer, but Dortmund still has talent. Jadon Sancho, an English star in the making, features there, as do Marco Reus, Mario Gozte, and Paco Alcácer. And there’s another promising young American developing at the club post-Pulisic: Gio Reyna, the teenage son of U.S. soccer legend and current Austin FC sporting director Claudio Reyna.
American players play roles at other big Bundesliga clubs. Tyler Adams, another evolving young player who will be instrumental in future World Cups, plays for RB Leipzig—part of the Red Bull family of international soccer teams and considered somewhat of a party-crasher to German football tradition. Weston McKennie is the most advanced of several Americans with Dortmund rivals Schalke, and up-and-coming striker Josh Sargent is developing at Werder Bremen.
- FC Augsburg
- Bayer Leverkusen
- Bayern Munich
- Borussia Dortmund
- Borussia Mönchengladbach
- Eintracht Frankfurt
- Fortuna Düsseldorf
- SC Freiburg
- Hertha Berlin
- TSG 1899 Hoffenheim
- 1. FC Köln (promoted for 2019-20 season)
- RB Leipzig
- 1. FSV Mainz 05
- SC Paderborn 07 (promoted for 2019-20 season)
- Schalke 04
- Union Berlin (promoted for 2019-20 season)
- Werder Bremen
- VfL Wolfsburg
2018-19 Bundesliga top scorers
Robert Lewandowski: The Polish striker, in his fifth season with Bayern Munich, scored 40 goals in all competitions, with 22 in Bundesliga play to lead the league. While it was a bit of a dropoff from his nearly goal-a-game pace of the prior three seasons, it was an impressive tally nonetheless.
Paco Alcácer: The Spanish striker, on a Borussia Dortmund team with plenty of scoring talent, was the leading scorer for the Bundesliga runner-ups last season with 18 goals.
Marco Reus: The Dortmund captain, in his seventh season with the team, contributed 17 goals and eight assists over the course of the ’18-’19 Bundesliga season.
Wout Weghorst: The Wolfsburg attacker had an excellent debut season in the Bundesliga, coming over from Dutch side AZ Alkmaar to put in 17 and add seven assists.
Luka Jovic: The ascendent Serbian had a breakout 17-goal season for Eintracht Frankfurt — so much so that Real Madrid picked him up over the summer in the hopes he’d break them out of the by-their-standards slump they had last season.
Here’s the list of recent Bundesliga champions; it pretty much speaks for itself.
- 2018-19: Bayern Munich
- 2017-18: Bayern Munich
- 2016-17: Bayern Munich
- 2015-16: Bayern Munich
- 2014-15: Bayern Munich
- 2013-14: Bayern Munich
- 2012-13: Bayern Munich
- 2011-12: Borussia Dortmund
- 2010-11: Borussia Dortmund
- 2019-10: Bayern Munich
Here’s the complete list of champions going back to 1963.
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