Soccer in Germany

By Vince •  Updated: 07/29/22 •  6 min read

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Soccer in Germany has strong historical roots. From the late 18th century, when the first match happened in Germany, to immense success has required a lot of patience. By going through two world wars, the nation has gained the fame of being one of the best out there. Despite hard times, Germans are proud of their soccer culture and its success in the past. With a proud history and thousands of clubs in the country, some questions need answers. What is the history of German soccer? Which teams emerged as the best in Germany?

Soccer in Germany (the brief history)

The Beginning

The first soccer matches (Fußball in German) happened in the 1870s, shortly after the formation of the German Empire. These matches were organized by school teachers, although they were closer to rugby. Regardless, it took 30 years to form the governing body, the German Football Association (Deutscher Fußball-Bund or DFB). So I could argue that soccer in Germany wasn’t off to a flying start. World War I didn’t help in that regard. Besides, the national team played its first match in 1908 against Switzerland, losing 3-5. A year later, the Germans suffered the biggest defeat from England, losing 0-9. But, they also romped Russians 16-0 in 1912.

Road to the First Glory

There were turbulent times between the world wars. Though clubs and the national team did play their matches, the political landscape changed, from the Weimar Republic to Third Reich. It also changed the soccer system. German championships were organized in Gauligen by region and each Gauligen winner would qualify for the final tournament. That is the period where Schalke 04 and Dresdner FC dominated German football until the end of the Second World War. Once peace arrived in Europe, German football started to thrive. In West Germany, to be precise. Its national team won its first World Cup in 1954 by beating heavily-favored Hungary 3-2 in the final. That is also known as the “Miracle of Bern”. To improve domestic soccer culture and continue its success, Bundesliga came to life in 1963. That paid off quickly, as they won EURO in 1972, World Cup in 1974, and reached the EURO 1976 final. At the same time, Bayern Munich won three straight Champions League titles from 1974 to 1976.

Strong Performances and Heartbreaks

From the late 1970s to the mid-1980s, German football did not make much noise. Previous triumphs were now just memories in the club and national team competitions. That is where Franz Beckenbauer entered the scene and took the head coach role of the national team. Under his management, German football regained its glory. Germans reached three consecutive World Cup finals, winning two of them. After Beckenbauer, German football had more ups and downs, as would have every team at some point. Although, strong performances kept coming at both national and club levels. But with performances came also heartbreaks. One of the most memorable ones definitely is from 1999 and 2018. In 1999 Bayern Munich lost UEFA Champions League by conceding two goals in added time. And in the 2018 World Cup national team finished last in Group F as the defending champions. Still, their history is full of glory, something many others dream of.

Best Teams in German Soccer

Bayern Munich

When it comes to the best teams or clubs in Germany, there is one that stands out – Bayern Munich. In the context of German soccer, they deserve their paragraph. That is because of their achievements compared to any other German soccer team. 31 Bundesliga titles, 20 DFB Pokals, and 6 UEFA Champions League trophies already speak for themselves. But there is more. Not only have Bayern Munich won most Bundesliga titles, but also last ten seasons. Also, get this – they have won more league titles than any other German soccer team combined. That shows how dominant Bayern is at the domestic level. Although, there are questions if they are too good for German soccer. But this is a story for another time. Regardless, there are a few other teams worth mentioning in this article.

Borussia Dortmund

If there is a team in Germany, which could punch holes in Bayern’s legacy, it’s Borussia. Der Klassiker – the Dortmund-Bayern matchup has its name for a reason. They were the last club to win Bundesliga before Bayern’s unprecedented streak. In total, they have done so five times, the second most (with Mönchengladbach) number of Bundesliga titles won by a team. Now you can see where the difference is. It’s measurable in light years. Yet, Dortmund has proven its case to be a great German team. They are performing very well in international club competitions often. The best examples are winning the Champions League in 1997 and reaching the final in 2013.

Hamburger SV

Why Hamburger SV? Why not another team which may have won more Bundesliga or DFB-Pokal titles? Well, the short answer is that there aren’t many more teams who have won more than Hamburger SV. But it is not their titles I want to talk about what makes this team great. It’s their consistency. Yes, of course, they belong to the elite. Three Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal titles each speak for themselves. But one thing stands out above the others. They were in Bundesliga for the longest time among the founders. From 1963 to 2018, Hamburger SV wasn’t relegated from Bundesliga not a single time. They went so big with it that even a clock was in Volksparkstadion to keep track of time spent in the Bundesliga. However, the clock almost immediately lost meaning once the team suffered relegation in 2018. Even so, Hamburger SV is one of the best teams out there.

Final Thoughts

As I understand, while researching for this article, German soccer had a slow start. But once they gained momentum of success, Germans hacked soccer as we know it. Developing a steady stream of legendary players and coaches led to great performances. In that context, there is no denying that German soccer is one of the best in the world. If not the best.


I'm a qualified soccer coach, who has been involved with the sport for most of my life. I started Woodland Soccer to talk about the game I love.