Karlsruhe introduced Oliver Kahn to the world and enjoyed their Bundesliga heyday in the 1990s, finishing sixth three times and reaching the 1993/94 UEFA Cup semi-finals.
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.
Years in Bundesliga: 24 (1963-68, 1975-77, 1980-83, 1984/85, 1987-98, 2007-09)
Most appearances: Gunther Metz (278)
Most goals: Emanuel Günther (37)
Youngest player: Klaus Theiss (18 years, one month, 17 days)
Predecessor club Karlsruher FC Phönix were crowned domestic champions in 1909, while the club as we know it now won back-to-back DFB Cups in 1955 and 1956. And although Karlsruhe were founding members of the Bundesliga in 1963, on-field success has been in short supply since then.
KSC battled against the drop in each of their first five Bundesliga seasons before going down in 1968. They would spend the next two decades flitting between the top two divisions. Things changed with the appointment of former player Winfried Schäfer in 1986. It was his first coaching job and he brought them back up in 1987 before establishing Karlsruhe as a top-flight side.
Watch: A wonder goal from Karlsruhe's Michael Wittwer against Hansa Rostock in 1991/92
Schäfer's club record 12 years at the helm of a side once dubbed “an XI of nobodies” was shaped by his promotion of youth, including later German football legends like Oliver Kahn and Mehmet Scholl. Three finishes of sixth under Schäfer are the best in the club’s Bundesliga history, while he also took them into the UEFA Cup three times, losing the 1993/94 semi-final on away goals to Austria Salzburg. They won the Intertoto Cup in 1996.
Things have been a struggle since, both on and off the pitch with drops as low as the third tier and financial issues threatening the club. A total of 22 coaches in the 25 years since Schäfer left, including the likes of Joachim Löw, show the level of instability Karlsruhe have endured. They haven’t been in the Bundesliga since 2009 but came agonisingly close in 2014/15 with a dramatic late play-off loss to Hamburg. They fell to the third division two years later but have since established themselves back in Bundesliga 2 as of 2019.