Kick-off times show clear trends: FC Bayern and BVB leave the rest of the league behind every year

The Bundesliga classic of the 21st century will take place in Munich on Easter Saturday evening. With the direct meeting at the top game kick-off time, FC Bayern and Borussia Dortmund are cementing their supremacy in several current Bundesliga tables.

Saturday afternoon, 3:30 p.m. No other kick-off time represents the Bundesliga as much as the traditional game date at the beginning of the weekend. Just four years after the introduction of the Bundesliga – in 1967 – the match date became the core kick-off time for the top German league. Even today, the majority of matches kick off at this time.

However, at the start of the 2009/10 season, the Bundesliga matchday was split into five parts – 1x Friday evening, 5x Saturday 3:30 p.m., 1x Saturday 6:30 p.m., 1x Sunday 3:30 p.m., 1x Sunday 5:30 p.m. During European Cup weeks, a third Sunday game is even scheduled at 7:30 p.m. to give the clubs involved more time to regenerate. Then on Saturdays at 3:30 p.m. the game will only be played in four stadiums at the same time. Before the introduction of the top game on Saturday evening there had been at least six games in the afternoon, but one of the games was sacrificed to the game in the evening 15 years ago.

Since then, the most popular clubs have played on Saturday evenings as often as possible. The attractiveness of the Bundesliga conference has noticeably suffered as a result. A club is allowed to play up to eight games per season on Saturdays at 6:30 p.m., and rights holder Sky exploits this mercilessly. Since the 2017/2018 season, FC Bayern and Borussia Dortmund (except 2019/2020) have consistently been scheduled for the exclusive date on Saturday evening eight times every season; previously a maximum of six top game appearances per team were allowed.

In the current season, Munich and BVB will have played eight top games at the end of the season. Logically, the direct duel between the Bundesliga giants on Easter Saturday is scheduled again at 6:30 p.m.

Gladbach crash in the top game ranking

Last week, the last open match days of this season were scheduled exactly. Apart from Bayern and Dortmund, no other Bundesliga team will reach the maximum of eight top games by the end of the season. RB Leipzig and the surprisingly strong VfB Stuttgart were scheduled seven times. The Swabians’ previous season record was four top games, but the sporting upturn and extremely attractive football have obviously made an impression on those responsible for Sky.

However, there will be no sporting reasons for 1. FC Cologne to be scheduled six times on Saturday evening. The “popularity” component is certainly likely to play a decisive role here. In addition, the relegation battle is more exciting than football’s no man’s land.

That could also have had an influence on Borussia Mönchengladbach’s appointments. The “Elf vom Niederrhein” is one of the biggest clubs in Germany and, like Cologne, has a huge following, which is why Sky has selected the Gladbach game for the 6:30 p.m. slot eight times a season since 2017. This season, however, the “Foals” were only used in the top game four times.

In the top game season ranking, Borussia fell from shared first place to seventh place, shared with Eintracht Frankfurt and Werder Bremen. Bundesliga leaders Bayer Leverkusen were also placed in the top game more often.

At least Sky has provided a little more variety with its top game selection this season than last season. This time ten teams were placed in the top game at least three times, compared to only seven last year. With Augsburg and Heidenheim, only two teams will be completely excluded from Saturday evening until the end of the season; last season this applied to five teams (Augsburg, Hoffenheim, Wolfsburg, Mainz, Freiburg).

Traditional clubs bring in quotas

In the all-time 6.30 p.m. rankings, Mönchengladbach is still third (85 top games since 09/10), only Bayern (105) and Dortmund (102) have played more top games in the 15 seasons. If you look at the average value per season, Gladbach is only in fifth place. RB Leipzig, which was three months young at the beginning of the 2009/2010 season and was still playing in the top league, and Schalke 04, which had only been in the second division for two seasons, are just ahead of Borussia.

What is striking is how large the gaps are between the individual Bundesliga teams in the rankings. The traditional clubs Bayern, Dortmund, Gladbach, Bremen, Frankfurt, Cologne and Stuttgart are the odds makers – Leverkusen and especially Leipzig are likely to be regular top game participants primarily for sporting reasons. Union Berlin, Wolfsburg, Mainz, Bochum and Hoffenheim are already playing in top games much less frequently (at most three times per season).

The imbalance becomes almost grotesque when you look at the clubs from Freiburg and Augsburg, which have strong regional roots. The sports club has only played 9 top games in 15 seasons, while the FCA has only played 2 in 13 years.

Wolfsburg are champions at 3:30 p.m

But Augsburg is a long-running favorite at 3:30 p.m. On average for the season, the Fuggerstadt team plays 21 games at the most popular kick-off time for stadium goers. This puts them roughly on a par with Freiburg, Hoffenheim and Wolfsburg. The team from the Autostadt is completely disappointing in terms of sport this season, but is at least champions in the 3.30 p.m. ranking. Wolfsburg was used 25 times on Saturday afternoon.

The Saturday 3.30 p.m. table since the beginning of the 2009/10 season shows that the smaller clubs are part of the Bundesliga conference much more often than the traditional clubs with great appeal. In the past 15 seasons, no team has been on the pitch more often during the main Bundesliga season than TSG Hoffenheim, a whopping 316 times. Wolfsburg (309x) and Mainz 05 (294x) are – historically speaking – regular guests at the classic kick-off time. SC Freiburg’s 299 games on Saturday afternoon are particularly spectacular because the club from Breisgau was second-class for a year. FC Augsburg’s 276 games on Saturday afternoon should be assessed in a similar way because the Bavarian Swabians have only been first class for 13 years.

For comparison: The four other Bundesliga clubs, which, alongside Hoffenheim, Wolfsburg and Mainz, have been playing in the first floor since the 2009/10 season, achieve significantly lower values: Bayern Munich were still allowed to play 262 of the 3:30 p.m. games. Bayer Leverkusen has 242 games, Borussia Dortmund has 241 and Borussia Mönchengladbach has 221 games.

Leverkusen are at the bottom of the table

Gladbach, last season in the previous season with 9 appearances at the 3:30 p.m. classic kick-off time, has made a big leap in the current season. 20 appearances on Saturdays at 3:30 p.m. are a new Borussia record in the current scheduling scheme. The fact that the Gladbachers complained to the DFL about their appointments last season probably didn’t hurt at least. However, the “Foals” are still the club with the fewest average fixtures on Saturday afternoons of all the Bundesliga clubs.

In the current season, Leverkusen and Frankfurt are carrying the red lantern with 12 conference appearances each. If you want to see Leverkusen below, you don’t need to turn the table, just take a look at the 3:30 p.m. rankings.

However, it cannot be denied that Gladbach’s comparatively frequent presence in the Bundesliga conference is also linked to the table situation. VfL has been in no man’s land for three seasons now. This ensures less relevance and, as a result, fewer top game participations. Even the explosive Borussia duel against Dortmund was not scheduled for the evening this season, either in the first or second half of the season.

The encounter between Gladbach and BVB has a great top game tradition: 15 of the 30 duels since the 2009/10 season kicked off on Saturday evening at 6:30 p.m. Only the former Bundesliga game Bayern against Schalke and the matches between Leipzig and Bayern or Leipzig and Dortmund have a higher rate. The undisputed leader in this regard is, unsurprisingly, the Bundesliga classic of the 21st century: The game on Easter Saturday is the 25th top game between Bayern and Dortmund; in 15 years only 5 games have not been played on Saturday evening.

Good for the rights holder of the top game from the 2025/26 season: from the season after next, each team will be allowed to play on Saturday evening ten times, twice more than currently.

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