Bakery Jatta and Robert Glatzel (l-r.) are dreaming of moving on up with Hamburg. - © Getty Images
Bakery Jatta and Robert Glatzel (l-r.) are dreaming of moving on up with Hamburg. - © Getty Images
2. Bundesliga, bundesliga

5 reasons to get excited about the big Bundesliga 2 kick-off


With anticipation rapidly growing ahead of another swashbuckling campaign in Germany’s second tier, picks out five reasons to be excited as the big Bundesliga 2 kick-off edges ever nearer...

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1) Battle of the big boys 

Of course, there are never any certainties in what has to be one of the most unpredictable leagues on the continent, yet three teams will undoubtedly begin as favourites given their monumental stature in the game. 

Schalke and Hertha Berlin suffered relegation from the top flight last term, while Hamburg once again just missed out on heading in the opposite direction following a promotion play-off defeat. All three are about to make a fascinating fight for it as each looks to claim one of the two automatic spots that leads to the Bundesliga.

“We know that whoever thinks it's going to be easy, will be proved wrong; that's the kind of pressure we are under,” Schalke coach Thomas Reis said as the promotion-chasers started their engines. “[But] I like being under pressure and I will lead from the front,” the Royal Blues’ tactician added, raising the battle cry for the team from Gelsenkirchen.

"I will lead from the front." - Schalke coach Thomas Reis. - IMAGO/Thomas Pakusch/IMAGO/Pakusch

“We have to put [relegation] behind us, learn from our mistakes and then be proud again,” Hertha boss Pal Dardai added, with the Berliners desperate to bounce straight back up.

HSV goalkeeper Daniel Heuer Fernandes also saw enough positives following a relegation/promotion play-off defeat against Stuttgart to be hopeful for the campaign ahead. “The way we performed as a club will give us strength for the future and even if disappointment prevails now, of course, we will lift ourselves again.”

That process begins with an immediate test of Hamburg’s resolve. With the fixture machine throwing up a Hamburg vs. Schalke opening-night blockbuster to get proceedings up and running in 2023/24, a chance to lay down a big early-season marker will want to be taken by both sides. Hertha, meanwhile, are away to another team who will have designs on upsetting the favourites, Fortuna Düsseldorf, on the opening weekend.

HSV's Robert Glatzel will target the top scorer's crown in 2023/24. - Oliver Hardt/Bundesliga/DFL

2) Hungry chasing pack

Heidenheim famously won the Bundesliga 2 title on the last day of the season in May and they were joined by a Darmstadt side that were just pipped to the championship silverware. Both of those teams, along with third-placed finishers Hamburg, enjoyed a healthy advantage over the chasing pack but it wasn’t always clear as to how things would eventually turn out. At the halfway point of the 2022/23 season, for example, as many as five more teams were in touch with the top three.

An incredible second-half-of-the-season surge by Hamburg’s rivals St Pauli saw the Boys in Brown knocking on the door in the final throes, while Paderborn – who were only outscored by HSV – were a constant in the promotion race.

Promoted Kaiserslautern’s incredible challenge – aided by USMNT forward Terence Boyd’s goals – may have somewhat faded in the end, but the Red Devils are expected to be back stronger this time around. 

USMNT international Terrence Boyd scored 13 Bundesliga 2 goals for the Red Devils last season. - IMAGO/Frey-Pressebild/Deines/IMAGO/Thomas Frey

As are Fortuna, the fourth-placed finishers whose plan to offer free tickets at all of their future home games begins with a pilot scheme this very season. With Holstein Kiel and Hannover also keen to be in the mix and Karlsruhe set for a big lift inside their newly developed stadium, the competition for places will be intense from the get-go.     

3) Goals, goals, goals 

Season on season, Bundesliga 2 is a nothing short of a goalfest. There were 901 goals scored across the division last term and you can bet that total will be under threat in the coming campaign. Hamburg were the top scorers last term with 70, while Hertha hold the all-time record in the division with the 123 they netted in 1980/81 (albeit over an increased 42-match season). 

Schalke's Simon Terodde is the all-time leading scorer in Bundesliga 2. - IMAGO/Ralf Treese, Ralf Treese/IMAGO/Treese

With Schalke competing in the second tier once again, so too will be the league’s all-time leading marksman, Simon Terodde. The 35-year-old striker has found the net an incredible 172 times through the years and you can be certain he’ll want to increase that tally as he seeks to add to Die Knappen’s promotion tilt.  

Heidenheim’s Tim Kleindienst ended the recently completed campaign on top of the scoring charts with 25 and he was followed by HSV’s Robert Glatzel, who added seven assists to his 19 goals as Tim Walter’s men challenged to the last.

Karlsruhe’s Marvin Wanitzek was joint top for goal involvements, the attacking midfielder weighing in with an impressive 10 goals and 12 assists. Expect the 30-year-old, along with Glatzel and the likes of Holstein Kiel’s Steven Skrzybski, Cedric Teuchert of Hannover and Pauli attacker Lukas Daschner (16 goal involvements last time out) to be in the thick of the goal action again in the coming season.

Third division champions Elversberg knocked Bayer Leverkusen out of the DFB Cup last year. - IMAGO/Jan Huebner/IMAGO/Jan Huebner

And you never know, this might just be the campaign when we witness the record for most goals in a single game challenged, for there were some contests last term that almost matched Kaiserslautern’s 7-6 win against Meppen in 1997. 

4) Giant-killings on the cards 

Another of Bundesliga 2’s tremendous traits is the league’s unpredictability. For example, who would have guessed that all three of the teams promoted from the third tier last season – Magdeburg, Eintracht Braunschweig and Kaiserslautern – would manage to retain their Bundesliga 2 status last term? Or that Arminia Bielefeld, a Bundesliga team the season prior, would suffer a second successive relegation and drop into 3. Liga? 

This season’s newly promoted teams – Elversberg, Osnabrück and Wiesbaden – will be playing with the pressure off and appear primed to take a scalp or two on their journey through Bundesliga 2.  Last season's third-tier winners Elversberg have made it into the second division for the first time. 

Coach Tobias Schweinsteiger has worked wonders at Osnabrück. - IMAGO/osnapix / Dauwe/IMAGO/osnapix

Horst Steffen’s men are no strangers to upsets, having ousted Bundesliga big boys Bayer Leverkusen from the DFB Cup last year and no team will fancy visiting the compact Waldstadion Kaiserlinde in the season ahead.

Osnabrück are coached by Tobias Schweinsteiger, elder brother of former Bayern Munich and Germany legend Bastian, and the Purple-Whites gained automatic promotion after a full-throttle finish to a third-tier campaign. A goal six minutes into added time on the last day of the season sent the Lila-Weißen up at the expense of Wiesbaden, who would later brush off that disappointment by defeating Bielefeld in the promotion play-off.  

With aims on establishing themselves in the second tier, Wiesbaden can count on Markus Kauczinski, a coach who knows the division well having previously taken the reins at Karlsruhe, St. Pauli and Dynamo Dresden.

The famous Veltins-Arena will likely be centre stage in Bundesliga 2 once again. - IMAGO/Ralf Treese/IMAGO/Treese

5) Fan power

Colour, noise, passion and some of the best atmospheres in the world game, it’s no secret that Bundesliga 2 is a mecca for fans. Last season produced a new record with more than 6.8 million supporters attending games across the league, meaning it was the highest-attended second division season ever.

Hamburg’s average attendance of 53,500 set a new record. With Schalke’s Veltins Arena and the Olympiastadion in Berlin back among the second-tier stadia for 2023/24, don’t be surprised to see last season’s numbers get a bump in the campaign ahead.

All told, if you’re missing Bundesliga 2, you’re missing out. So make sure you’re on board as one of the globe’s showcase leagues gets set to explode into action on 28 July.