What Bundesliga team should I support: Find a club with this primer

What Bundesliga team should I support
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Must read preface: For close to a decade on several platforms — most recently this one — I’ve given prospective fans of the Premier League a guide to choose a team. So it seems natural to answer the question: What Bundesliga team should I support?

Look, in no way do I claim to give anything other than an opinionated overview that I believe to be a fair representation of clubs whose history far outlives even my fandom of the beautiful game. With the Bundesliga returning this weekend and holding the status as (my opinion) the second-most interesting top-to-bottom elite league in the world, I’m going to wade into similar waters.

[ MORE: Bundesliga standings ahead of return ]

By no means do I claim a massive breadth of knowledge on every top German club. In fact, I guarantee that Bundesliga diehards will find at least a handful of gripes in my comparisons (There’s only so long to write).

But people need to know what they are getting into, as I know personally of a fan or two now attached to insufferable clubs. ‘They’ had no idea that their love for a brown ale or clever nickname would lead to a lifetime of supporter misery.

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Also, this is primarily an American site, and the Bundesliga has been welcoming to USMNT players and prospects for some time, so we’ll make those connections for you.

So without further ado, I submit to you my 2020 beginner’s guide to answering the question “What Bundesliga team should I support?” I know there are better routes to run in finding a club you love, but these are desperate times for live sports fans. Let us give you a head start.

It’s a great league. You’re gonna love it.

18. Paderborn — The up-and-down club

Top-flight titles: None
Formed: 1907
In top-flight since: First season back
American players: None, though Khiry Shelton was there until January.

PL comparison: Norwich City
Season so far: Looking likely to be one-and-done, a traditional yo-yo club who’s probably been a bit better than their standing.

17. Werder Bremen — The underachieving mainstays, with glory not too far in the rearview mirror.

Top-flight titles and most recent one: Four (2004)
Formed: 1899
In top-flight since: 1981-82
American players: Josh Sargent, formerly Aron Johannsson
PL comparison: West Ham United with titles– Underachieving and fiercely supported. 

Season so far: A tremendous amount of talent has produced a whole lot of nothing. Hanging their hat on a match-in-hand, this decade could not have ended soon enough for a team that won a lot for a long time.

What Bundesliga team should I support
Werder’s Sargent (l) with Marco Friedl (Photo by Carmen Jaspersen/picture alliance via Getty Images)

16. Fortuna Dusseldorf — One of the country’s oldest clubs, trying to continue rebound

Top-flight titles and most recent one: One (1933)
Formed: 1895
In top-flight since: 2018-19

American players: Alfredo Morales, Zack Steffen (on loan)
PL comparison: Southampton — a ride to the lower tiers and back up.

Season so far: Nine of their 27 goals have come in three matches, and they’ve only managed five points from those outings.

15. Mainz — Weathering a storm in a relatively sunny period of the club’s history

Top-flight titles and most recent one: Three (1978)
Formed: 1905
In top-flight since: 2009-10
American players: None, formerly Conor Casey

PL comparison: Bournemouth — Instantly competitive once promoted but in tough waters right now.
Season so far: Swedish striker Robin Quaison has scored enough and in big spots to keep the mainstays just above the bottom three.

14. Augsburg — Slipping after a surprise UEL season in 2015-16.

Top-flight titles and most recent one: None
Formed: 1907
In top-flight since: 2011-12
American players: None, formerly Michael Parkhurst

PL comparison: Burnley — Sometimes you wonder how they do it, but they find a way to remain.
Season so far: Won five of six in the middle of the season and that’s about the only thing keeping them kicking.

13. Hertha Berlin — Spending big and crossing fingers.

Top-flight titles and most recent one: Two (1931)
Formed: 1892
In top-flight since: 2013-14
American players: None, several former players inc. John Brooks

PL comparison: Aston Villa — Big city, big club, spending and trying to find its old mojo
Season so far: They’ve spent a lot, gone through a few coaches (one was Jurgen Klinsmann), and expected a lot more than 13th.

12. Eintracht Frankfurt — Well-supported and hoping to sustain success

Top-flight titles and most recent one: One (1959)
Formed: 1899
In top-flight since: 2012-13
American players: Timothy Chandler, formerly several others

PL comparison: Wolves — Productive academy, recent tastes of Europe, and hopeful of continuing their resurgence.
Season so far: Two losing streaks have sent them away from the reaches of European qualification. Still alive in the German Cup if it goes forward.

What Bundesliga team should I support
Timothy Chandler (Photo by Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images)

11. Union Berlin — Progressive, driven, and back in the big time.

Top-flight titles and most recent one: None
Formed: 1966
In top-flight since: 2019-20
American players: None, formerly Bobby Wood.

PL comparison: Everton — Big city vibes with a focus on the community
Season so far: Great at home but wretched away from the Stadion An der Alten Forsterei.

10. Koln — Fun. Like a live goat type of fun.

Top-flight titles and most recent one: Three (1978)
Formed: 1948
In top-flight since: 2019-20
American players: None

PL comparison: Crystal Palace — A unique club with an unmistakable stadium experience, the fit misses the mark on past silverware but makes solid contract on the live mascot comparison. Goats and eagles are bit different though…
Season so far: A horrible first few months led to tremendous success with a 8W-3L run since mid-December. Capable of making a run to sixth if they can recapture the mojo.

9. Hoffenheim — Everyone’s enemy.

Top-flight titles and most recent one: None
Formed: 1899
In top-flight since: 2008-09
American players: None, formerly several including Danny Williams

PL comparison: Chelsea or Man City before the silverware.
Season so far: Two hot runs of form does not a good season make. Not resembling the team that gave Liverpool a hard time in the UCL a couple of years ago.

8. Freiburg — Rise and grind (and grind and grind).

Top-flight titles and most recent one: None
Formed: 1904
In top-flight since: 2016-17
American players: None, formerly a few including Danny Williams

PL comparison: Watford — On occasion they’ll delight, but the footing never feels too solid.
Season so far: Bang average. About as middle of the road and inconsistent as you’ll find.

7. Wolfsburg — A roller coaster ride with the highest peaks.

Top-flight titles and most recent one: One (2009)
Formed: 1945
In top-flight since: 1997-98
American players: John Brooks and several former players including Claudio Reyna

PL comparison: Leicester City — a surprise title in 2009 and roller coaster since
Season so far: Won just twice between November and the end of January, but still capable of making Europe.

What Bundesliga team should I support
John Brooks (Photo by Harry Murphy/Getty Images)

6. Schalke — Often on the precipice.

Top-flight titles and most recent one: Seven (1958)
Formed: 1904
In top-flight since: 1991-92
American players: Weston McKennie and plenty of former players

PL comparison: Chelsea — UCL regulars who’ve succeeded with several styles of play. Less league success though, but solid rivalries.
Season so far: There are questions about the club’s long-term prognosis in terms of their top talents, but David Wagner’s boys still have a chance to head back to Europe.

5. Bayer Leverkusen — Always the bridesmaids (or groomsmen. It’s 2020).

Top-flight titles and most recent one: None
Formed:
In top-flight since: 1979-80
American players: None, but several former including Landon Donovan and Frankie Hejduk

PL comparison: Tottenham Hotspur — A mainstay, but always on the precipice. Plus: One UCL runners-up season.
Season so far: As usual, entertaining and living near the top without sipping from the grail. A lot of top young players could leave soon, so is now the time?

4. Borussia Monchengladbach — Stylish, powerful, and a bit too “nearly.”

Top-flight titles and most recent one: Five (1977)
Formed: 1904
In top-flight since: 2008-09
American players: Fabian Johnson, and formerly Michael Bradley and others

PL comparison: Liverpool of 2018-19– Entertainers on the cusp of something more?
Season so far: Leaders for a while and boasting a very good squad that could still lay claim to the crown.

3. RB Leipzig — Like Hoffenheim. On steroids.

Top-flight titles and most recent one: None
Formed: 2009
In top-flight since: 2016-17
American players: Tyler Adams

PL comparison: Man City — Not perfect as City has a massive history, but the nouveau riche vibe is heavy in the German consciousness and the club is helped by its club relationships. A wealth-fueled rise from nothing to pure power.
Season so far: The title charge has stalled due a series of draws, but still very much alive with Timo Werner’s clock ticking.

2. Borussia Dortmund — Relatively successful monster hunters.

Top-flight titles and most recent one: Eight (2012)
Formed: 1909
In top-flight since: 1976-77
American players: Giovanni Reyna, formerly a few including Christian Pulisic and Jovan Kirovski

PL comparison: Arsenal — Stylish football but slip-ups in big spots as of late. Talent procurers and producers of the highest order
Season so far: The season pause came at a terrible time for red-hot Dortmund, who is riding Jadon Sancho to another title charge. Can they end Bayern’s long run?

1. Bayern Munich — Monsters.

Top-flight titles and most recent one: 29, including the last eight
Formed: 1900
In top-flight since: 1965-66
American players: None, formerly Landon Donovan and Julian Green

PL comparison: Manchester United — The best-known team in the league from a worldwide perspective, ruthless competitors who almost always spend.
Season so far: A slow start has kept the field of title chasers five-deep, but Hansi Flick’s side has spread its wings and will win again if it can navigate a tricky-enough fixture list with three of the four chasers left on the docket.

What Bundesliga team should I support
(Photo by Boris Streubel/Getty Images)