The German football season begins in full this weekend with the first round of the German Cup. Featuring teams from the Bundesliga to the country's sixth tier, history tells us first round upsets are in the cards.
The German Cup is bound to provide its famous upsets and excitement when it kicks off Friday. The first round features 32 matches played over the course of the weekend, pitting Bundesliga sides against teams ranging from the second tier down to the sixth division.
In last year's edition of the tournament, six Bundesliga teams fell to lower league opposition in the first round. Hoffenheim and Nuremberg were beaten by fourth-tier Berliner AK 07 and TSV Havelse. Hamburg, Werder Bremen, Eintracht Frankfurt and then-top-flight Greuther Fürth also suffered defeats at the hands of second and third division sides. Kickers Offenbach, a former Bundesliga club now playing in the third tier, managed a run all the way to the quarterfinal.
Going back further, Wolfsburg, Bremen and Freiburg were all knocked out in the opening round by fourth division clubs in 2011. Hannover suffered the same fate in 2009 and 2010.
Even Germany's two biggest clubs – Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund – have fallen at the first hurdle. Bayern were eliminated in the first round three times in the 1990s, most famously by TSV Vestenbergsgreuth – a then-amateur club that would go on to merge with Spielvereinigung Fürth and become Greuther Fürth. Dortmund have lost in the first round of the modern cup on an impressive 11 occasions, most recently in 2005.
Searching for surprises
This year's competition features plenty of opportunity for upset. Last year's first-round disappointments Hoffenheim travel to Aumund-Vegesack, a fifth-tier regional club from a neighbourhood in northern Bremen. Nuremberg have been given a somewhat tougher draw against Sandhausen a team that came 17th in the second division last year yet were not relegated. Normally such a low finish would have meant automatic relegation were it not for the bad finances that cost Duisburg their spot in the league.
Eintracht Trier have long enjoyed spoiling the German Cup for Bundesliga clubs
Third-tier Preussen Münster will be hoping for an upset against second-division St. Pauli. The club were responsible for Bremen's first round exit last year and St. Pauli have a penchant for early hiccups of late, having lost in the first round in two of the last three seasons.
Eintracht Trier, one of the most famous German Cup surprise teams, have returned to the competition and will take on Cologne. Trier currently play in the fourth division, having spent much of the past two decades in Germany's regional leagues. The club famously defeated both Schalke and Dortmund on their way to the semifinals of the 1997-98 tournament. They were also responsible for the first round eliminations of Hannover in 2009 and then-first-tier St. Pauli in 2010.
The first round also features plenty of potential for goals. In 2011 Schalke, Paderborn and Fürth all beat their lower league opposition by a ten-goal margin in the first round. Those games, however, seem close in comparison to Stuttgart Kickers' 17-0 victory over VfB 05 Knielingen in the 1941 forerunner to the modern German Cup.
Last year's winners Bayern will travel to the Lower Saxony village of Rehden. Fourth-tier Schwarz-Weiss Rehden can expect a packed house against Pep Guardiola's stars. The team's regular home ground holds four times the population of the town, which is just over 1,000 people. The match has been moved to a larger stadium in Osnabrück for the special occasion.
Dortmund will be heavy favorites in their tie against Wilhelmshaven. The port city club have played in the cup four times and never made it out of the first round.
Kaiserslautern, who nearly returned to the Bundesliga last season until a relegation playoff loss to Hoffenheim, play, for lack of a better word, the lowliest team in the competition. Sixth- division Neckarsulmer Sport-Union were only formed in 2009 and are playing in the German Cup for the first time.
In a match that could have received top billing 25 years ago, former East German power FC Magdeburg, now playing in the fourth division, host Energie Cottbus.
Another fixture of football in the old German Democratic Republic (GDR), BFC Dynamo, take on Stuttgart. The Berlin club once won 10 straight league titles in the 1980s and was run by the GDR's infamous Stasi chief but now plays in Germany's fifth tier.
Armenia Bielefeld and Eintracht Braunschweig will square off in a match between two classic former Bundesliga sides. Both clubs recently achieved promotion, Bielefeld to the second division and Braunschweig to the top flight.
What one can say for sure is that regardless of who plays who, somebody will make some history and German football fans will be learning a few new team names. Heidenheim-1860 Munich, Osnabrück-Erzgebirge Aue and RB Leipzig-Augsburg will play on Friday in the first matches of the competition.
The final, as always, is at Berlin's Olympic Stadium in May.
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