German professional football employs a distinctive method to determine the final club to be promoted to and relegated from the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2.

While in many European leagues the top three teams are promoted and the bottom three are relegated, Germany employs a two-legged play-off system to determine which clubs stay up and which go down.

With 18 clubs competing in both the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2, 16th spot is known as the relegation play-off place, a lifeline for clubs attempting to stay in their division and avoid suffering automatic relegation like the two sides that finish below them.

Watch: Wolfsburg edged out Braunschweig over two legs in last season's play-off

What is the relegation play-off?

The team who finishes 16th in the Bundesliga and third in Bundesliga 2 contest the relegation play-off. The first leg is played at the home of the Bundesliga side and the second leg is played at the home of the Bundesliga 2 side. The winner over two legs plays in the following season's Bundesliga.

Who is in the relegation play-off?

Holstein Kiel – only promoted from the third tier last season – will end the season in third place in Bundesliga 2. They will face Wolfsburg, who finished 16th in the top flight, in the relegation play-off.

In-form Holstein Kiel await one of Hamburg, Wolfsburg or Freiburg in the play-off. © imago / DeFodi

When is the relegation play-off?

The first leg – hosted in Wolfsburg – takes place on Thursday 17 May at 8:30pm CEST/7:30pm BST/2.30pm ET.

The second leg – hosted in Kiel – takes place on Monday 21 May at the same time.

Anything else I need to know?

Yes: two things in fact.

1) Away goals are used in the play-offs. In case the sides are level after 90 minutes, extra time and then – if necessary – penalties serve as deciders.

2) The same system is used to decide who is promoted to or relegated from Bundesliga 2. Karlsruher – relegated from the second tier last season – are the third-division side in the play-off and they will face Erzgebirge Aue - the team current Schalke coach Domenico Tedesco saved from the drop last season - for a place in Bundesliga 2.

Watch: Current Wolfsburg coach Bruno Labbadia inspired Hamburg to play-off survival in 2014

Recent relegation play-off results

2016/17: Wolfsburg 1-0 Eintracht Braunschweig; Eintracht Braunschweig 0-1 Wolfsburg

2015/16: Eintracht Frankfurt 1-1 Nuremberg; Nuremberg 0-1 Eintracht Frankfurt

2014/15: Hamburg 1-1 Karlsruher; Karlsruher 1-2 Hamburg (aet)

2013/14: Hamburg 0-0 Greuther Fürth; Greuther Fürth 1-1 Hamburg

2012/13: Hoffenheim 3-1 Kaiserslautern; Kaiserslautern 1-2 Hoffenheim

Click here for the full Bundesliga standings!