With the recent news that the German Bundesliga will restart its season in the next few weeks while Major League Soccer is still on hold, the eyes of the soccer world will be on the league and its teams, including those who have never watched a single match.
For those wondering what teams to watch or who to support, Massive Report compiled a variety of factors found with Columbus Crew SC and compared them to a particular, current Bundesliga team in order to give new German fans a starting point of who and what to watch while awaiting the return of the MLS season.
It is well-documented that the Black & Gold were founded on June 15, 1994 and have obviously remained in the top tier of U.S. Soccer’s league since the founding of MLS in 1996 season. The question here is, who within the Bundesliga has had the staying power and longevity of the Crew?
First, a bit of background. The Bundesliga began play for the 1963-64 season with 16 teams from West Germany, as East Germany behind the Iron Curtain at the time. Of those 16 teams, none of them have been in the Bundesliga during the history of the league, a marked difference from our MLS experience. The two closest teams in terms of the number of seasons in the Bundesliga are Werder Bremen and Bayern Munch. Bremen was one of the original 16 teams but spent one season (1980-81) in the 2. Bundesliga, Germany’s second professional division, after being relegated the year before.
However, Bremen has had success in its past, winning the Bundesliga four times, the DFB-Pokal (German Cup) six times, won one predecessor to the Europa League (UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup) in the 1991-92 season and finished as the runner up in the Europa League in the 2008-09 season among other successes.
In contrast to Bremen, Bayern Munich did not join the top Bundesliga that first season due to a failure to qualify when the Oberligas (predecessor leagues) in Germany were consolidated into the Bundesliga in 1963. Bayern joined the Bundesliga the following year after winning promotion with players like Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Muller and Sepp Maier on the roster and have never looked back, evolving into one of the dominant teams in Germany and Europe today with 29 Bundesliga titles, 19 DFB-Pokal wins, five UEFA Champions League trophies, and Europa League title, among other trophies.
If a club with longevity similar to the Crew in its country’s top league suits you, you may want to watch Bremen or Bayern Munich.
The Black & Gold have five trophies in the team’s history: the 2008 MLS Cup, Supporters’ Shield from 2004, 2008 and 2009 and the 2002 U.S. Open Cup. For purposes of this article, we will focus on Columbus’ MLS Cup and Open Cup wins, as they are most analogous to the Bundesliga where the best record in each season results in winning the league, as opposed to the MLS playoff system.
In Germany, the team with the most similar trophy history to the Crew is VfL Wolfsburg, who are the winners of one Bundesliga trophy and one DFB-Pokal Cup, with a further similarity being that Wolfsburg’s sole Bundesliga title happened in the 2008-09 season. As an aside, Wolfsburg grew out of a multi-sports club for Volkswagen workers in the city of Wolfsburg, so if you own or are a fan of Volkswagen, you may want to consider Wolfsburg as your team.
If green is not your color (or if Volkswagen’s are not your thing) another club to consider would be Fortuna Dusseldorf, with its with DFB-Pokal Cup wins. Dusseldorf just recently returned to the top level of German football after gaining promotion following the 2017-18 season, but it is not the club’s first time in the Bundesliga after spending 25 seasons in the league. If you are looking for a team that has had its ups and downs, a varied history and a similar number of trophies as the Crew, look no further than Dusseldorf.
Obviously, it goes without saying that the Black & Gold have their fair share of Americans on the squad. If you are a fan of American players in general, then the players below may be a reason enough to watch or support the clubs they play for. For purposes of this article, I will only include players who played for their club’s senior team this year.
There is only one place to start this list and that is with the aforementioned Fortuna Dusseldorf. Many Crew fans will recognize the team’s goalkeeper, recently-departed Crew star, Zach Steffen. Steffen was handed the No. 1 spot following his arrival on loan from Manchester City last summer and he immediately showed why with a league-high 10 saves in his debut.
In addition to Steffen, those are longtime fans of the U.S. Men’s National Team will find another familiar name at Dusseldorf in Alfredo Morales. The 29-year-old defensive midfielder played 19 games so far this season (15 starts) and his aggressive effective play earned him a recall to the USMNT in September. Although primarily used as a defensive shield in front of the center backs, Morales does have a goal and two assists to his name. If you are a fan of hard tackles and high defensive work rate, you will see Morales do both.
While Dusseldorf is the main spot that most Crew fans will look towards given Steffen’s place in the team, there are a variety of other Americans who ply their trade in the Bundesliga. If you are looking for U.S. National Team players from years past, you can find Fabian Johnson on Borussia Monchengladbach and Timothy Chandler at Eintracht Frankfurt. More recent USMNT names include John Brooks at Wolfsburg or Weston McKennie at Schalke. The Bundesliga also has its fair share of American players for the future, with Josh Sargent at Werder, Tyler Adams at RB Leipzig and Gio Reyna (son of Claudio) breaking into Borussia Dortmund’s first team this season.
Any way you look at it, there are a bunch of Americans you can find playing in the Bundesliga.
Sometimes it’s all about finding the best way to fit in visually with the club or what appeals to you. If you are looking for that club where you can wear your black and gold and fit right in, look no further than Borussia Dortmund. The club is always wearing some combination of these two colors and the South Bank of their home stadium has been nicknamed the Die Gelbe Wand, meaning “The Yellow Wall. Crew jerseys will fit right in.
While this was largely about which Bundesliga team to support, there is one Crew fans should not cheer for: RB Leipzig. RasenBallsport Leipzig e.V., commonly known as RB Leipzig, was founded in 2009 by employees or agents of Red Bull. The team plays at Red Bull Arena and its logo is the Red Bull logo…do I need to keep going? As a Crew fan, it would be hard to support a team that shares the Red Bull name with MLS’s New York Red Bulls
The most important thing here is the live soccer is coming back to TV screens on May 16 and at the end of the day, that is a great thing to see. Let us know which Bundesliga team you will support when the league returns.