Elversberg have earned their first-ever promotion to Bundesliga 2, with one game left of the 2022/23 3. Liga season - but who exactly are the Saarland-based outfit? bundesliga.com gives you the lowdown...
How they did it
Elversberg earned promotion to the third tier of the football pyramid last term and have wasted no time in continuing their rise through the divisions. They have sat top of the pile for all but seven matchdays and have been an immovable force at the summit since 15 October. Winning 21 of their 37 games and scoring a league-leading 78 goals, their fate has looked inevitable, and they completed the job with a 1-1 draw against promotion hopefuls Wehen Wiesbaden on Matchday 37 of 38. It is not just in the league that they have attracted attention, either, as they defeated Bundesliga high-flyers Bayer Leverkusen in the first round of the DFB Cup in July.
They've been superb both home and away in 2022/23, with their 40 points on home soil bettered by Waldhof Mannheim (43) and Freiburg II (41) and their 31 on the road the second best in the division. A five-game winning run from Matchdays 19-23, where they kept four clean sheets and scored 16 times, is the team's best sequence of the campaign and very much the kind of purple patch that is the making of champions.
Elversberg are from the provincial town of Spiesen-Elversberg, which has a population of under 13,000. Formed originally as FC Germania Elversberg in 1907, the club briefly went out of existence for seven years due to the outbreak of World War I, before reforming in 1918. Like many lower league, largely regional clubs, Elversberg have undergone face lifts over the years thanks to local mergers before settling on their current moniker. Their home is the Ursapharm-Arena an der Kaiserlinde, better known as the Waldstadion Kaiserlinde, which can hold almost the majority of the town with a capacity of 10,000.
Elversberg have never played as high as the second tier, while this is just their second season in the nationwide third rung of German football. They competed alongside RB Leipzig in their sole 3. Liga campaign in 2013/14 but were immediately relegated back to the fourth-tier Regionalliga Südwest before finally earning a return to the third division last year. There were near-misses in the interim, with three top-two finishes and defeat in two promotion/relegation play-offs - in 2015/16 and 2016/17. Their 2022 promotion was automatic as champions of the Regionalliga Südwest.
A first DFB Cup appearance came in the 1979/80 season, and they have gone on to feature eight more times since, with their latest run - including the aforementioned dumping out of Leverkusen - taking them to the second round of the 2022/23 edition. They were ultimately beaten 1-0 by Bundesliga outfit Bochum. Meanwhile, Elversberg have been dominant in the Landespokal Saarland - their regional cup competition featuring teams from division three and below - which they have lifted four times in the past five years and have again reached the final of this term.
Former Germany U21 international Horst Steffen, who made 207 Bundesliga appearances as a midfielder across spells at Borussia Mönchengladbach, Duisburg and Uerdingen, took the reins in 2018. The 54-year-old led Elversberg to a fourth-placed finish in his first season and has improved step by step ever since, finishing third, then second, before finally winning the regional fourth-tier crown last year. Having now secured back-to-back promotions, and lifted the club to its highest ever point, Steffen is now a veritable legend in these parts.
Luca Schnellbacher is the team's top-scorer with 14 league goals so far this season and he has certainly led the charge for Elversberg, but former Bayern Munich man Jannik Rochelt has been a revelation since joining the club last summer. Rochelt, who featured 10 times in the Bayern second string that earned promotion from the same league under now VfB Stuttgart boss Sebastian Hoeneß in 2019/20, has contributed 25 goals to the team's cause this season, popping up with 11 goals of his own and 15 assists for his teammates. League-wide, there is only one player, Ahmet Arslan (Dynamo Dresden), who has been involved in more (31).
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