Traditional German giants Cologne and Hamburg will be among the favourites to get out of the ultra-competitive Bundesliga 2 in 2024/25. - © DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga
Traditional German giants Cologne and Hamburg will be among the favourites to get out of the ultra-competitive Bundesliga 2 in 2024/25. - © DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga
2. Bundesliga

5 reasons why the 2024/25 Bundesliga 2 season will be the biggest and best yet


The 2024/25 season marks 50 years since the creation of Bundesliga 2, and it’s set to be a huge one as Germany’s ever-unpredictable second division takes things up yet another notch this year. We start with a bang, and expect things to go on that way throughout the season. Here’s five reasons why 2024/25 is going to be the biggest and best yet in Bundesliga 2…

Click here for the full 2024/25 Bundesliga 2 fixture list!

1) A HUGE opener

The newly released fixture lists have thrown up a real treat to get the campaign under way. Bundesliga 2 actually kicks off three weeks earlier than the top flight this year, but we’re being gifted a Bundesliga classic in the second division on Friday, 2 August.

Fresh from hosting some big games at UEFA Euro 2024, all eyes will again be on the RheinEnergieStadion as Cologne welcome Hamburg to get the action going in style. Together these clubs boast five Bundesliga titles, seven DFB Cups and even a European Cup. Yet the Billy Goats are reeling after relegation, while HSV are bearing the scars of what is now six (tight) promotion misses.

Watch: Cologne’s relegation story

They are icons of German football, who many feel should be plying their trade at the top level. The fact of the matter is that these giants have fallen but are now gearing up for a colossal campaign, with both needing to set the tone from the start if they’re to set things right.

HSV, who are coached by Steffen Baumgart following his December departure from Cologne after two-and-a-half mostly successful years, are used to the nerves of opening night in Bundesliga 2. Since their historic relegation in 2018, they have featured on the Friday of Matchday 1 in four out of six seasons. Last year they produced an all-time Bundesliga 2 classic with a 5-3 win over Schalke. They got a 3-1 victory in Gelsenkirchen back in 2021/22 and 2-1 win at home to Fortuna Düsseldorf the season before, but lost 3-0 at home to Holstein Kiel in their first-ever Bundesliga 2 fixture in 2018/19.

Watch: Hamburg 5-3 Schalke on opening night last year

2) Big clubs

Cologne opening up proceedings against Hamburg is just the tip of the iceberg in Bundesliga 2 this season. A look down the list of names competing in 2024/25 is a who’s who of German football.

Schalke are playing at this level for a second straight year. They were Bundesliga runners-up as recently as 2018 and boast the third-biggest membership of any football club in Germany, behind Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.

Hertha Berlin were the dominant club in the capital for many decades and are also targeting a top-flight return after their 2023 relegation.

Kaiserslautern, Nuremberg and Eintracht Braunschweig are all former Bundesliga champions.

Fallen Bundesliga giants Schalke are one of Germany's best-supported clubs. - IMAGO/Ralf Treese/IMAGO/Treese

Darmstadt, Düsseldorf, Hannover, Paderborn and Greuther Fürth have all graced the Bundesliga in recent years.

Karlsruhe and the promoted duo of Ulm and Preußen Münster have also all competed in the Bundesliga in the past.

Jahn Regensburg are back after winning in the play-off and can mix things up alongside the likes of Magdeburg and Elversberg, who have established themselves in the league.

Last year Bundesliga 2 set a new record for attendance with over 8.9 million people coming to watch games. That worked out at some 29,100 per match – higher than France’s Ligue 1 (27,000) and Spain’s LaLiga (29,000). There were even three matchdays last term where Bundesliga 2 boasted a higher average than the Bundesliga.

And those numbers should only rise further in 2024/25. Düsseldorf’s play-off defeat to Bochum, and Cologne’s relegation means that of the 13 largest stadiums across the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2, eight will be used in the second division; only five in the top flight.

Talking of Düsseldorf, they will again be running their Fortuna For All campaign this season that sees tickets made free. Their long-term goal is to have all 17 home games free, but they are still in the pilot phase. They trialled it with three matches in 2023/24 and will now step that up to four fixtures in 2024/25. Those games will be announced in due course.

Fortuna Düsseldorf's Merkur Spiel-Arena was one of 10 host stadiums at UEFA Euro 2024. - 2019 DFL

3) It's so unpredictable

People might make claims that the Bundesliga is predictable, but that’s definitely not something that can be levelled at Bundesliga 2.

Last season, most would’ve been looking at relegated Schalke and Hertha, plus perennial challengers HSV, to be the trio to watch for promotion. That’s not how it turned out. St. Pauli led the way for most of the campaign, being hotly pursued by surprise package Kiel. Fortuna came third, HSV a distant fourth, Hertha ninth and Schalke 10th.

Only 11 points separated Düsseldorf and Paderborn down in seventh, while it was just nine between relegated Hansa Rostock in 17th up to Nuremberg in 12th. Things were both tight and full of the unexpected. Schalke, for example, occupied the bottom three for most of the Hinrunde and only confirmed their survival with a couple of weeks to go. Kaiserslautern were also at serious risk for much of the Rückrunde, but survived and even got to the DFB Cup final.

Go back a further 12 months and it was Heidenheim and Darmstadt who pipped HSV to automatic promotion on an incredibly dramatic final day, while Regensburg went from early-season table-toppers to automatic relegation.

Watch: The drama of the final day in 2022/23

The year before that, St. Pauli had been top halfway through before finishing fifth, just three points off the play-off spot and three more behind promoted Werder Bremen. Regensburg had once more led the way in the early weeks, but again collapsed to finish one place above the bottom three.

And you have to watch out for the under-the-radar newcomers. Eight times in the last 30 years, teams coming up into Bundesliga 2 have kept their momentum going and secured immediate promotion to the Bundesliga the following year. Ulm are one of the three promoted teams and are among that illustrious club of back-to-back climbers, having achieved the feat in 1998/99. Paderborn under Baumgart were the last team in 2018/19 – the last time Cologne were in the division and Union Berlin came up for the first time.

Ulm and Münster also both come into this season on the back of back-to-back promotions from the fourth tier already. Trust us, watch this space…

4) 50th anniversary

The opening game between Cologne and Hamburg on 2 August marks exactly 50 years since the first match in Bundesliga 2. Back then it was split into north and south divisions, with the southern campaign kicking off on 2 August 1974 with Saarbrücken’s 1-0 win at home to Darmstadt.

Watch: Goals, skills and drama from 50 years of Bundesliga 2

The format has changed somewhat over the last half a century, but the constant flow of now famous names has continued throughout. Germany striking legends Rudi Völler, Jürgen Klinsmann and Horst Hrubesch all cut their teeth in the second tier; a certain Joachim Löw was also once a prolific goalgetter in Bundesliga 2 and also coached at that level; favourites of the modern game like Lukas Podolski, Marco Reus, İlkay Gündoğan, Leon Goretzka and Joshua Kimmich all made their breakthroughs in the second division.

And one of Bundesliga 2’s greatest success stories is that of Jürgen Klopp. He played over 300 games in the league for Mainz in the 1990s before taking over as coach and guiding them to the Bundesliga for the first time in their history. The ex-Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool icon truly is a son of Bundesliga 2 and one of its greatest figures from the last 50 years.

Jürgen Klopp forged his reputation in Bundesliga 2 with Mainz, before taking the top-level coaching world by storm. - Bongarts/Getty Images

5. Exciting talent

Who will be the next future star to emerge from Germany’s second division? On average it’s a younger league than the Bundesliga, offering youngsters plenty of opportunities to make a name for themselves. Could we see the next Podolski, Reus, Gündoğan, Goretzka or Kimmich in action this season?

Cologne, whose academy has produced the likes of Podolski and Florian Wirtz in the modern era, boast some very promising young players again, and will definitely have to make use of them given the club’s transfer ban. Eric Martel, Max Finkgräfe and Jan Thielmann are all only 22 and are expected to really flourish at this level. German-American striker Damion Downs struck twice in 10 Bundesliga outings in his maiden professional campaign last year, and will hope for yet more playing time at 19 this season.

Watch: All of Podolski’s Bundesliga 2 goals

Schalke have always been good for youth development and have also signed highly rated 17-year-old Aris Bayindir from RB Leipzig. The attacking midfielder got six goals and five assists in 22 U19 Bundesliga games last season.

Fortuna boast Japan international Shinta Appelkamp at still only 23, and have taken Bayer Leverkusen’s promising 19-year-old midfielder Noah Mbamba on loan to give him a platform to blossom.

Shinta Appelkamp has already made 105 Bundesliga 2 appearances for Fortuna Düsseldorf. - IMAGO / Moritz Müller

We said to watch out for Ulm. Well, they’ve also brought in a talented teenager with a loan move for Maurice Krattenmacher, who was signed by Bayern from Unterhaching this summer. Another attacking midfielder, the 18-year-old got seven assists in the 3. Liga last season, having got four goals and four provisions in the fourth-tier Regionalliga Bayern the year before and a whopping 23 goals from only 20 outings in the U17 Bundesliga in 2021/22.

Bundesliga 2 is the ideal proving ground for younger players in Germany before stepping up to the Bundesliga, but it’s also simply a great league to watch if you want drama and excitement at a level that still boasts quality. And with some of German football’s biggest names involved this year, the 50th anniversary season will be one that you don’t want to miss.