For sports fans living in Germany, life can seem, well, not quite the same. Time zones make it tough to keep up with the NFL, NBA or college sports in real time. The ocean that separates Europe and North America makes it really difficult to actually go to games (even if this weren’t the COVID era).
If, however, you are among the 10% or so of Americans whose favorite sport is soccer, then you probably know how good you have it. Europe is a soccer mecca, and features the top leagues, clubs and players in the world.
For those who aren’t soccer fans, but who are willing to give the sport a try, there is no better place to do so than Germany. Here are 6 reasons to help persuade you.
1. You can root for Americans… as underdogs.
This may be the most refreshing thing of all: American men’s players are sports underdogs in Germany! This never happens in the U.S. Pro leagues are stuffed with American players. LeBron, Pat Mahomes and Tom Brady are all global household names. “Football” means “the NFL,” full stop.
But in Europe, the tables are turned. Sports superstars here are named Messi, Ronaldo, and Mbappe. “Football” equals “soccer.” Household names seem to come from every country except the U.S.
However, the Bundesliga features a number of fun, young, American players who are beginning to change that. John Brooks anchors Wolfsburg’s defense. Josh Sargent is a striker for Werder Bremen and has started nearly every game this season. Gio Reyna is a winger for powerhouse club Borussia Dortmund, and is only 18 years old! Watch these guys – and others like Tyler Adams or Matthew Hoppe – play. You’ll quickly become a fan.
2. The Bundesliga launches the careers of U.S. soccer stars.
Related to number 1: many of the American players who are on the way to global soccer stardom got their start in Germany.
Christian Pulisic, who plays as an attacker for superclub Chelsea in the English Premier League, got his start at Dortmund. Weston McKennie, who scores incredible goals alongside Cristiano Ronaldo for Italian powerhouse Juventus Turin, cut his teeth at Schalke. Both are only 22 years old, and will be around for a long time to come. It’s awesome to watch U.S. players take the next step.
3. German clubs care about their fans. Seriously, they do.
The Bundesliga is unique in the professional sports universe because club fans actually have a say in who owns the club. Okay. Stop laughing. It’s true. Part of what governs the Bundesliga is something known as the “50+1 rule.” Essentially, this means that pro sports clubs can’t sell a majority ownership stake to huge commercial investors. As a result, the club itself generally gets to be the majority owner, which means that the wishes of fans take priority over commercialization or profit incentives. Bottom line: it creates conditions for passionate fans and clubs that take them seriously.
For Americans in Germany, this is a chance to witness that passion. So start by finding a U.S. player you like, and then adopt his team. It’s guaranteed to be entertaining.
4. Great teams are right where you live.
You’re never farther than a couple of hours away from top German teams. Bayern Munich is one of the greatest clubs in the world. You can find teams in Stuttgart, Mainz and Frankfurt. When travel restrictions lift and live matchdays resume, buy (very reasonably priced) tickets to see one of these teams in action. Even if you don’t totally understand the game yet, the energy and noise are a blast to behold.
5. Relegation and promotion provide real drama.
Like almost every other professional soccer league in the world, the Bundesliga uses a system of relegation and promotion. This gives teams an incentive not to tank, because the two worst teams in any given season are “relegated” to a lower division league (in this case, the 2.Bundesliga). Consequently, the two best teams from the second division are “promoted” upward.
So fans can have hope every season. It also means a ton of drama as the season’s end nears and teams fight to avoid relegation.
6. There is a strong women’s Bundesliga.
It’s hard to find U.S. women’s pro players in Germany. This isn’t a negative thing, though. The U.S. Women’s National Team is the undisputed global women’s soccer powerhouse. We’ve won four World Cups! That said, Germany has won two women’s World Cups (to go along with the four that the men have won). So the quality of play in the Frauen-Bundesliga is excellent, and the matches are well worth your time.