Will Hamburg and St. Pauli be promoted? Can Arminia Bielefeld and Greuther Fürth bounce straight back? How will the returning Kaiserslautern fare? bundesliga.com gets you in the mood for the 2022/23 Bundesliga 2 campaign...
1) Dino power
No, not a new season of Power Rangers, but Hamburg's latest attempt to get out of Bundesliga 2. After three straight fourth-placed finishes, HSV fell desprately short last term, winning their final five matches to earn a shot at promotion via the play-offs. The Dinos won the away leg at Hertha Berlin 1-0, only for a 2-0 home loss to seal their fate.
A five-year stay in Germany's second tier was not part of the plan when they slipped through the net in 2018, ending their unbroken 55-year association with the Bundesliga, but the Dinos have momentum and continuity on their side. Tim Walter remains at the helm, and the club have tied down 2021/22 top scorer Robert Glatzel to a new deal. They don't have fellow German giants Schalke and Werder Bremen for competition, either.
If the Red Shorts can handle the pressure, they might well be partying like it's 1983 - the year of their last Bundesliga title triumph.
2) Cult club revived
Hamburg's season would have been doubly painful, had city rivals St. Pauli held their nerve. The Kiezkicker were flying at the halfway stage, top of the table after recording 11 wins from 17 Hinrunde games, but the wheels came off in the new year. They recorded just five wins during the second half of 2021/22, surrendering winning positions in six matches, to end the campaign six points adrift of the automatic promotion places, in fifth.
Even if they don't manage to mix it at the top in a bid to return to the Bundesliga after 11 years away, Pauli are a massive draw. One of Germany's biggest cult clubs, their anti-establishment sentiment - their symbol is a skull and crossbones and home kit all-brown - ensures the 29,500 capacity Millerntor is almost always full.
To paraphrase UK pop band S Club 7, there ain't no party like a Pauli party!
3) The promotion race
Arminia Bielefeld and Greuther Fürth didn't have much to celebrate last season, after being automatically relegated from the Bundesliga. Bouncing straight back is easier said than done, but it's by no means uncommon. Schalke and Bremen pulled it off this past campaign, with the likes of Freiburg and Cologne also making short work of Bundesliga 2 in recent years.
Other contenders include Darmstadt, who were pipped to the play-off post on goal difference alone, not helped by some costly end-of-season defeats. Nuremberg and Paderborn were in the running at one point, while Fortuna Düsseldorf, Hannover, and promoted trio Magdeburg, Eintracht Braunschweig and Kaiserslautern are among the 12 Bundesliga 2 teams with prior Bundesliga experience.
However it shakes out, escaping the clutches of Bundesliga 2 takes some doing. Teams in the lower reaches of the standings often pick up victories against teams in the upper echelons, and there's typically not much between those in the top half. Just as the finest of margins decided the 2021/22 title race, the new season promises to be a seriously close-run affair.
4) The Kaiserslautern factor
Although promoted via a play-off win over Dynamo Dresden, Kaiserslautern can't be excluded from the promotion equation. The Red Devils are two-time Bundesliga winners, making history in 1997/98 as the only newly promoted club to lift the Meisterschale.
Kaiserslautern yo-yoed between the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 in the noughties, before missing out on promotion to the big time via the 2013 play-offs. Relegation to Germany's 3. Liga five years later marked a new low, but if history has taught us anything, it's don't write off FCK.
Outside the Bundesliga since 2012, Kaiserslautern still rank as German football's ninth most successful club, and there are plenty of fans that feel the Red Devils - like Hamburg, a founding Bundesliga member - belong in the first, rather than second, division.
Watch: Kaiserslautern secure promotion via the play-off
5) Immersive experience
Indeed, Kaiserslautern's promotion is great news for supporters craving the matchday experience. The Fritz-Walter-Stadion has a capacity of 49,850, making it the fourth biggest in Germany's second division. Hamburg's Volksparkstadion tops the charts (57,000), followed by Düsseldorf's Merkur Spiel Arena (54,600) and Nuremberg's Max-Morlock Stadium (50,000).
Smaller but no less inviting are the homes of Sandhausen, Jahn Regensburg, Holstein Kiel, Paderborn and Heidenheim - with capacities in the region of 15,000. All but three of the remaining nine Bundesliga 2 stadia can house 25,000-49,000 fans on any given matchday.
Pre-covid restrictions, Bundesliga 2's average attendance across the 2018/19 season was a touch over 20,000, which is more than in the Dutch Eredivisie, roughly on a par with France's Ligue 1 and hot on the heels of Italy's Serie A. The Bundesliga remains the best attended league in Europe, but its little brother is not far behind.
Fans flocking to Bundesliga 2 matches in their droves is no real surprise. Supporters have the option to sit or rock it old school by standing in one of myriad bouncing terraces that collectively witnessed an average of 2.91 goals per game last season. And get this: with single tickets as cheap as €9, you don't have to part with a week's wages for the privilege.
So, what are you waiting for? Dive right in and enjoy second tier football as it's meant to be!
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