Kick-off times have been altered, new attendance records will be set and a crop of new clubs will contest the biggest prize: promotion to the German top flight.
Ahead of the commencement of the 2013/14 season in the second tier, bundesliga.com outlines some of the changes, big and small, that you can look out for in Bundesliga 2 this campaign…
Fans wishing to go to the season opener will have an extra half hour to take their places in the stadiums on Friday, since the kick-off time for the weekend openers have been moved from 18:00 CET to 18.30 CET in 2012/13. Additionally, for the first two rounds of matches, before the Bundesliga commences, there will be a later game on Friday at 20.30 CET, plus a game on both Saturday and Sunday at 15.30 CET. The matchday schedule for the opening weekend of Bundesliga 2 action can be found here.
Eleven of the 18 clubs, close to two thirds, have competed in the Bundesliga: Fortuna Düsseldorf, Greuther Fürth, 1. FC Kaiserslautern, 1. FC Köln, Dynamo Dresden, VfL Bochum, FC St Pauli, 1860 Munich, Arminia Bielefeld, Karlsruher and Energie Cottbus have all had their moments of glory in Germany’s top flight. The first derby of the season arrives as early as Matchday 2, when Köln host Düsseldorf.
You may have noticed just how evenly-balanced Germany's top flight is, and it's no different in Bundesliga 2, giving a whole host of teams the chance to target promotion - as well as making many fear the drop. It is anything but likely that as a promoted side, you face the drop a year later: a mere six promotees were forced to drop down into the 3. Liga in the last eight years, and not once in that period was more than one newly-promoted club relegated.
At first glance, there wouldn’t appear to be any obvious candidates for promotion. Alongside Düsseldorf, Kaiserlautern and Köln, Union Berlin will fancy their chances of reaching the top flight, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that five of the 18 coaches have lead successful Bundesliga 2 promotion campaigns before: Peter Neururer with Bochum, Benno Möhlmann with Bielefeld, Rudi Bommer with MSV Duisburg, Marco Kurz with Lautern and Mike Büskens with Fürth. “There’s nothing more stupid than the saying you got promoted too soon. It’s rubbish. You can’t get promoted soon enough!” said Neururer to bundesliga.de.
Not many people would deny that Bundesliga 2 is extremely well-received by Germany’s football fans. In 2012/13, an average of 17,000 spectators flocked to watch the games each week, an impressive number when compared with France, for example, whose top tier - Ligue 1 - attracted just 19,211 fans on average in the same period. Ten years ago, Bundesliga 2 attendances averaged under 10,000 and the coming campaign could well see figures of up to twice that number, especially considering the presence of four established clubs in Düsseldorf, Fürth, Bielefeld and Karlsruhe.
Since 1981/82 the second tier in Germany has been a nationwide, singular division, which a total of 18 clubs have competed in it since 1994/95. However, this season is the first time where no club embarks upon its first ever campaign in Bundesliga 2. Last season’s newcomers SV Sandhausen and VfR Aalen had never before played in the second division, but this year, the newly-promoted clubs are seasoned Bundesliga 2 outfits in DSC Arminia Bielefeld and Karlsruher SC. Fortuna Düsseldorf and Greuther Fürth are the other two traditional clubs to return, after spending last season in the top flight.
TSV 1860 Munich are preparing for their tenth straight season in Bundesliga 2, by far the longest stretch of all 18 clubs. Contesting their sixth straight campaign are FSV Frankfurt, one more than 1. FC Union Berlin, FC Energie Cottbus and SC Paderborn 07. The Bavarians have earmarked season number ten as their last, however, as they look to target promotion to the Bundesliga.
Germany’s second tier is a model of financial success and that’s mainly due to the pact of solidarity between the clubs. Contrary to practice in Spain or Italy, 20 per cent of all television income is distributed among the division’s 18 clubs. In practical terms, in comparison with 2010/11, 2011/12 saw incomes rise by 7.4 per cent to 384.5 million Euros, the highest figure ever seen in Bundesliga 2. “Bundesliga 2 is developing thanks to these just and fair distributions,” says Deutsche Fußball Liga (DFL) CEO Andreas Rettig (pictured).
There's no doubt about the fact that most, if not all, Bundesliga 2 sides having done their homework. In their last friendlies before the kick-off to the new season, Fortuna Düsseldorf beat AS Monaco FC (pictured), Union Berlin overcame Celtic FC and FC Ingolstadt got the better of Borussia Mönchengladbach. Furthermore, as many as eight clubs - Fürth, Köln, Union Berlin, Cottbus, Ingolstadt, Aue, Sandhausen and Bielefeld - even managed to remain unbeaten in the whole course of pre-season.
bundesliga.com will be the website to visit if you intend to stay up to date with all the essential news from the 18 Bundesliga 2 sides. We will also be providing match reports throughout the 2013/14 season, offering you all the squad lists as well as extensive stats pertaining to both the clubs and the players.