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Kaiserslautern and their fervent supporters have seen many highs and lows at the club. - © IMAGO/Thomas Frey
Kaiserslautern and their fervent supporters have seen many highs and lows at the club. - © IMAGO/Thomas Frey
60 years of Bundesliga

Bundesliga club-by-club historical guide: Kaiserslautern

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Kaiserslautern are a club with a proud tradition who secured two memorable Bundesliga title triumphs in the 1990s.

bundesliga.com is taking you through all the teams to have graced Germany’s first division over the last 60 years – based on the number of seasons they’ve played up to and including 2023/24.

1. FC Kaiserslautern
Years in Bundesliga: 
44 (1963-96, 1997-2006, 2010-12)
Most appearances: Werner Melzer (374)
Most goals:
Klaus Toppmöller (108)
Youngest player:
Franco Foda (17 years, five months, 22 days)

Kaiserslautern as a city is perhaps best known for being the largest US military community outside of the USA – referred to as “K-town” as Americans struggled to pronounce the name – due to its proximity to Ramstein Air Base, but its football team remains a giant of the German game. Lautern, as they are known for short, were two-time champions in the pre-Bundesliga era with a team led by legend Fritz Walter, who captained Germany to 1954 World Cup glory. They were also founding Bundesliga members in 1963, but rarely challengers in the league's initial decades.

That was until 1990/91, when they emerged as shock champions, having finish 12th the previous year, with a team that included Stefan Kuntz, Bruno Labbadia, Bjarne Goldbaek and Thomas Dooley. However, their stay in the Bundesliga was ended in 1996 with relegation, despite winning the DFB Cup a week later. They bounced straight back up under Otto Rehhagel and went on to stun the footballing world by winning the Bundesliga in 1997/98 – the first and only time a promoted club has gone on to be champions, having topped the table from Matchday 4 and boasting a young Michael Ballack in the side.

Watch: Kaiserslautern's fairytale 1997/98 title win

Many ups and downs followed, with the slide to the third division complete in 2018, where they would spend four years before returning to Bundesliga 2. But the faithful at the Fritz-Walter-Stadion – also known as the Betzenberg, or just Betze – have seen some amazing games down the years. That includes a 7-4 win over Bayern Munich in October 1973 despite being 4-1 down after 57 minutes. The story goes that Josef Pirrung, who scored twice that day, was immediately offered a contract by Bayern but turned them down. And there was the 1981/82 UEFA Cup quarter-final against Real Madrid, where Lautern overturned a 3-1 first-leg loss in Spain by winning 5-0 – Real’s joint-heaviest loss in European competition.

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