Promotion and Relegation in German Football

Paul Gerald · Profile
Promotion and Relegation in German Football

Promotion and relegation in German football is generally similar to English football, but there are some differences. Promotion to the Bundesliga involves a playoff as it does for the Premier League in England, but in Germany, one team must win a relegation playoff to stay up.

German Football League Structure

As in England, Germany has tiers of leagues in its soccer structure. At the top is the Bundesliga, including all the famous clubs like Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and the rest. Just below that is 2. Bundesliga, and below that is 3. Liga. Beneath that in the fourth tier are five regional leagues called Regionaliga. Clubs in that tier are semiprofessional and amateur, and from the fifth tier down it’s all amateur.

Connecting all of this, as in England, is a system of promotion and relegation.

Bundesliga Promotion and Relegation

At the top of the Bundesliga, as in the Premier League, the top four clubs qualify for the next season’s Champions League. Nos. 5 and 6 go to the Europa League, and no. 7 goes to the Europa Conference League.

The two clubs at the bottom of the Bundesliga, nos. 17 and 18, are automatically relegated to 2. Bundesliga.

Meanwhile, in 2. Bundesliga, the top two teams are automatically promoted to the Bundesliga.

But this is where the difference between England and Germany emerges.

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Bundesliga Relegation Playoff

The final German Bundesliga relegation spot is actually determined by a playoff. The club finishing 16th in the Bundesliga plays a two-legged playoff with the team finishing third in 2. Bundesliga. The winner plays in the Bundesliga the following season.

In the 2. Bundesliga, there is a corresponding playoff with teams from 3. Liga. The club finishing 16th in 2. Bundesliga goes into a playoff with the third-place team from 3. Liga, while nos. 17 and 18 go down automatically. The top two clubs in 3. Liga go up to 2. Bundesliga.

2022-23 Bundesliga Playoffs

At the end of the 2022-23 Bundesliga season, the bottom of the table looked like this:

  • 16th: VfB Stuttgart (into playoffs)
  • 17th: Schalke 04 (relegated)
  • 18th: Hertha Berlin (relegated)

The top of 2. Bundesliga was:

  • 1st: Heidenheim (promoted)
  • 2nd: Darmstadt (promoted)
  • 3rd: Hamburger SV (into playoffs)

So VfB Stuttgart and Hamburger SV played two games to see what league they’ll be in next season. VfB Stuttgart won, 6-1, on aggregate, so each club will remain in their same league from last season.

Written By Paul Gerald
Paul Gerald, Owner and Founder of Groundhopper Soccer Guides · Profile
Paul is a traveler, writer, publisher and soccer freak. He started Groundhopper Soccer Guides as in 2014. When he's not kicking around England working on this site and his book, you can find him at Providence Park in Portland, cheering on the Portland Timbers.

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