Why the Bundesliga Has Only 18 Teams, and Can It Change? Find Out Now!

Why Does the Bundesliga Have 18 Teams?

The Bundesliga is one of the top professional men’s football leagues in Germany. It is the highest point every German team wants to reach, and the champion of the league automatically becomes the best team in the country. The league has faced criticisms from some quarters for having only 18 teams, while others consider this to be its strength. Let’s take a look at why the Bundesliga has 18 teams, the pros and cons of this arrangement, and other related topics.

The Origin of 18 Teams in Bundesliga

Inaugural 16 Teams and the Demotion of Hertha Berlin

For its first season in 1963/64, the Bundesliga had just 16 teams. Two years later, the number was lifted to 18 out of pure coincidence. Hertha Berlin were demoted on account of bribery, but the federation decided to replace them by offering a free promotion for another club from the west side of the capital.

Unofficial Whipping Boys as Unusual Replacement

The club that received the free promotion was Tasmania Berlin, which acted as the unofficial whipping boys for the rest of the league for a whole season before fading into the shadows. Promoting an amateur team to the top tier just because it represented Berlin would have been considered an unfair decision towards the two relegated sides who finished at the bottom of the Bundesliga table (Karlsruher and Schalke).

The Formula that Keeps 18 Teams

So in order to please everyone – the promotion for Tasmania Berlin, the relegated Karlsruher and Schalke – these two clubs were allowed to stick around in the first division, taking the number of clubs in the league up to 18. From then onwards, this number has remained unchanged except for the 1991/92 season when the league integrated teams from East Germany for the first time, thus featuring 20 clubs. But the following season, the 18-team format was restored.

The Logic Behind the 18-Team Bundesliga

Pros of Having 18 Teams

The 18-team league provides more competitiveness to the league, as the two extra clubs would be brought from lower tiers. Moreover, this format is essential for maintaining a winter break that ensures a healthier schedule for athletes.

Cons of Having 18 Teams

Having only 18 teams in the league limits the chance for up-and-coming sides to climb their way to the higher echelon. Additionally, this system means that the bigger sides in Germany are more threatened with relegation compared to their counterparts in the other top European leagues, who are provided with a bigger number of “cushions” who usually end up taking the fall by the end of the season.

Why Does Bundesliga Play 34 Games?

In the current 18-team format, each Bundesliga club has seventeen opponents that they must face twice (home and away) throughout the season, which explains why the league is composed of 34 rounds.

Why Does Bundesliga Have a Winter Break?

As explained above, the Bundesliga calendar has only 34 matchdays (four fewer than the other top European leagues), which means that the German league can afford to take a winter break in the middle of the season.

This system helps the players in recharging their batteries. It also allows them to spend the holiday season with their loved ones and spares them from playing during some of the coldest weeks of the season. While the winter break used to last for around six weeks (with no balls being kicked throughout January), it has been reduced to almost three weeks starting from 2020/21.

Could the Bundesliga Be Increased to 20 Teams Anytime Soon?

The idea of increasing the Bundesliga to 20 clubs reappears every now and then, but it had never truly materialized in the past, and it’s unlikely to do so anytime soon.

Could the English Premier League Adopt the 18-Team Formula?

The Premier League might be the most prestigious domestic top-flight in football, but Manchester United and Liverpool tried to spearhead a campaign aimed to reduce the number of the participant teams from 20 to 18. However, their attempts failed, as the majority of the country was unwilling to destabilize a system that has promoted English football globally.


The Bundesliga has had 18 teams since 1965, except for a brief period when it was 20. This system had been beneficial in terms of competitiveness and a shorter playing calendar that allows more time off for players. Nevertheless, it has also faced criticisms for limiting opportunities for up-and-coming teams. Increasing the number of teams to 20 or reducing it to 16 has been a topic for debate, but nothing has truly materialized.


1. Why does the Bundesliga have a shorter playing calendar than other top European leagues?

The Bundesliga has a shorter playing calendar of 34 games compared to other top European leagues because it has only 18 teams, and each plays seventeen opponents twice (home and away).

2. How long does the winter break in Bundesliga last?

The winter break used to last about six weeks but has been reduced to nearly three weeks starting from the 2020/21 season.

3. What are the pros of an 18-team league?

An 18-team league provides more competitiveness as two additional clubs join from the lower tiers. Additionally, it can maintain a winter break, ensuring healthier schedules for the athletes.

4. Can the Bundesliga increase the number of teams, or is it fixed?

Increasing the Bundesliga to 20 clubs appears unlikely in the foreseeable future. On the contrary, some big teams advocate its reduction to 16.

5. Why did some EPL clubs want to reduce the number of teams in their league?

Some EPL clubs, including Manchester United and Liverpool, pushed for the reduction of teams from 20 to 18. Their attempts failed, as the majority of the country did not want to destabilize a system that promotes English football worldwide.


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