After an exciting but ultimately disappointing Champions League final, VfL Wolfsburg return to Germany to open the 2020/21 Frauen-Bundesliga season against SGS Essen on Friday, September 4, in a rematch between the DFB-Pokal finalists.
The upcoming season marks the 50th anniversary since the DFB lifted its sexist ban on women’s soccer. Since then, both the German national team and the Frauen-Bundesliga have gradually carved out sustained periods of dominance on the international stage despite persistent disinterest and—at times—active ridicule from the public. After such a long time of punching above their weight in relative obscurity, Frauen-Bundesliga clubs should be well-positioned to take advantage of the spotlight on women’s soccer globally since last summer’s World Cup in France.
"We don't have balls.
But we know how to use them!"
— DW Sports (@dw_sports) May 14, 2019
But are the German clubs adequately prepared? Much like Wolfsburg, Frauen-Bundesliga’s poster child for the past decade, this upcoming season sees the league and many of its clubs at a crossroads. Tom Weber, in his thorough assessment, was cautiously optimistic about the state of German women’s soccer. Although there have been some positive developments in the off-season (as covered in our league-wide storylines to watch), other countries like England and Spain have done much more in terms of investments and professionalism in a much shorter amount of time, and Frauen-Bundesliga needs to hurry up or risks slipping even further.
With Frauen-Bundesliga in uncharted waters, it is an exciting time for neutral fans to tune in. While recent history shows the biggest stars leaving Germany for greener pastures (including Pernille Harder’s impending move to Chelsea), Frauen-Bundesliga still features some of the most exciting young talents internationally. Like in past seasons, Eurosport will broadcast at least one marquee match per week and Magenta Sport streams the rest for free. Without further ado, here is part 1 of Bundesliga Fanatic’s Frauen-Bundesliga club season previews, listed in reverse order of predicted season finishes (last to first):
Predicted finish: 12th (relegated to 2. Frauen-Bundesliga)
2019/20 finish: 1st, 2. Frauen-Bundesliga (promoted)
Major signings: Margarita Gidion (FFC Frankfurt), Jana Radosavljevic (BV Cloppenburg), Jasmin Sehan (SC Sand)
Major departures: Selina Cerci (Turbine Potsdam), Giovanna Hoffmann (Freiburg), Luisa Wensing (Freiburg)
Werder Bremen were the clear top team in last season’s 2. Frauen-Bundesliga, undefeated with a +32 goal differential when play was halted due to the Corona pandemic in March. While this should be an encouraging fact, they then lost some of their most promising young players and replaced them with slightly older, second-tier lifers. While Werder Bremen might think this to be a prudent strategy for relegation battles, their past history of yo-yoing between the top two tiers does not inspire confidence.
Player to watch: Agata Tarczyńska
With departure of players like Cerci and Hoffmann, Werder Bremen lost 28 goals and the player most likely to pick the slack is new signing from Wolfsburg II’s Polish forward Agata Tarczyńska. Tarczyńska is 32 and has no established track record of scoring consistently at Frauen-Bundesliga, but the fact that she is our player to watch for Werder Bremen shows exactly how we feel about this squad.
Predicted finish: 11th (relegated to 2. Frauen-Bundesliga)
2019/20 finish: 9th
Major signings: Miray Cin (Wolfsburg II), Taylor Kornieck (Orlando Pride, loan), Sophie Maierhofer (Aston Villa)
Major departures: Lisa Makas (St. Pölten), Meikayla Moore (Liverpool), Kathleen Radtke (unattached)
I am worried about Duisburg. One of the most successful Frauen-Bundesliga clubs historically, Duisburg were European champions in 2009 and had German internationals like Annike Krahn, Simone Laudehr, and (current captain of Wolfsburg and Germany) Alex Popp. Due to financial problems, they merged with men’s club MSV Duisburg and even though the merger ensured survival, their on-field performance has been on a downward slope ever since.
This offseason, they have lost nine players and only signed four to replace them. American midfielder Taylor Kornieck should be able to physically dominate mid-table Frauen-Bundesliga competition, but she will only be here until December. Without reliable scoring options, Duisburg might be in a real relegation battle.
Player to watch: Taylor Kornieck
It feels a bit weird and uncomfortable to pick a player who will only be present for half a season, and maybe this is my American bias showing, but looking at Duisburg’s current squad Kornieck should immediately become one of the best, if not the best, player. She has not yet made her professional debut after Orlando Pride had to withdraw from the NWSL Challenge Cup, but her display for American collegiate team Colorado Buffaloes show an extremely physical central midfielder who is not afraid to shoot from distance. Hopefully Kornieck will help Duisburg score a few goals before departing at the end of the year.
Predicted finish: 10th
2019/20 finish: 4th, 2. Frauen-Bundesliga (promoted)
Major signings: Victoria Krug (Wake Forest University), Laura Sieger (Bayer Leverkusen), Sandra Voitane (Apollon Limassol)
Meppen will embark on their first-ever top flight season after finishing fourth in the 2. Frauen-Bundesliga in the Corona-truncated campaign. Because reserve teams cannot be promoted to Frauen-Bundesliga, Meppen were able to leapfrog Bayern II and Hoffenheim II for the second promotion spot.
To ensure survival, Meppen have been very active on the transfer market. Center-back Victoria Krug, a German youth international who played in 11 Frauen-Bundesliga games for Turbine Potsdam between 2015 and 2017, left Wake Forest University in the United States one year early. Meppen dipped into American collegiate system for Beattie Goad, an Australian youth international who was a rotational player for a dominant Stanford University team. Besides league veterans Alexandra Emmerling and Agnieszka Winczo, they also signed Sandra Voitane, a 20-year-old striker with Champions League experience. Voitane is (as far as I know) the first Latvian player in the Frauen-Bundesliga.
Although they likely have the smallest budget in the league, I am hoping that Meppen stay up since they have recruited actively and small clubs who demonstrate such ambition deserve some rewards (as opposed to big clubs who continuously neglect their women’s sections).
Player to watch: Jannelle Flaws
Another new summer signing from BV Cloppenburg, American forward Jannelle Flaws has bounced around in Europe, and Meppen will hope that she will score goals to keep them up this season. Flaws played for University of Illinois and graduated as the program’s top scorer with 54, and last season scored eight goals in the 2. Frauen-Bundesliga.
Predicted finish: 9th
2019/20 finish: 10th
Major signings: Nina Brüggemann (SGS Essen), Lara Marti (FC Basel), Viktoria Pinther (SC Sand)
Major departures: Merle Barth and Lena Uebach (Turbine Potsdam), Antonia Göransson (Växjö)
Bayer Leverkusen are one of those aforementioned big clubs who treat their women’s sections like an afterthought. While nothing they have done thus far would demonstrate a change in attitude from their corporate overlords—one of the richest men’s Bundesliga clubs couldn’t be bothered to have any social media presence for their women’s team?!—they have recruited well. Lara Marti and Viktoria Pinther are young players with senior international experience (with Switzerland and Austria respectively) already, and Nina Brüggemann is an experienced Frauen-Bundesliga player signed from SGS Essen. Maybe this group will finally inspire the higher-ups at Bayer to actually put in some effort?
Player to watch: Juliane Wirtz
Sister of Bayer men’s player Florian Wirtz, 19-year-old defender Juliane Wirtz played in all 22 games and the most minutes on the squad last season. The German U-19 international is gaining huge amount of experience and, with another consistent season, should be in line to move to a bigger club.
Predicted finish: 8th
2019/20 finish: 8th
Major signings: Emily Evels (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Fatma Sakar (Hoffenheim II), Jacintha Weimar (Bayern Munich)
Major departures: Viktoria Pinther (Bayer Leverkusen), Agnieszka Winczo (SV Meppen), Charlotte Voll (Paris Saint-Germain)
SC Sand are a consistently mid-table team from a small town; they will not play attractive soccer that blow your mind, but they rarely get dragged into a real relegation battle either. This offseason they have continued to recruit well to fill holes left by their departing players. While it’s always difficult to project how players would step from lesser European leagues, SC Sand brought in two intriguing Hungarian youth internationals in Laura Kovács and Dora Süle. Danielle Tolmais, an American-born forward who has played for the French B team, also joined. In need of a goalkeeper after Charlotte Voll went back to France, SC Sand brought in Bayern’s back-up Jacintha Weimar. Also keep an eye out for German youth international Fatma Sakar.
Player to watch: Nadine Prohaska
What differentiates SC Sand from those big-name clubs below them is a stable core with senior international experience. Captain Diane Caldwell has been at the club since 2016, and Austrian midfielder Nadine Prohaska has settled well after a personally disappointing spell with Bayern Munich a few year back. It’s been three years since the Austrian national team went to the Euro semi-finals, but Austrian players continue to be underrated globally and a lot of them play for Frauen-Bundesliga clubs. Prohaska should again anchor SC Sand’s midfield and be an every-match player this season.
Predicted finish: 7th
2019/20 finish: 7th
Major signings: Tyara Buser (FC Basel), Elvira Herzog (1. FC Köln), Luisa Wensing (Werder Bremen)
Major departures: Klara Bühl (Bayern Munich), Merle Frohms and Virginia Kirchberger (Eintracht Frankfurt)
While SC Freiburg used to challenge for third or fourth in the Frauen-Bundesliga, the arrival of bigger clubs have meant that they are now content with mid-table finishes while developing youngsters and selling them on. Luckily, they remain one of the top talent-producing clubs in Germany. Just this off-season, they have sold young striker Klara Bühl to Bayern Munich, reuniting her with former Freiburg head coach Jens Scheuer, and goalkeeper Merle Frohms to the newly-rich Eintracht Frankfurt. In the women’s game where transfers involving fees are still rare, Freiburg did excellent business there.
To address the departures, Freiburg have recruited three players from promoted Werder Bremen, including former German international Luisa Wensing. Frohms’ departure necessitated a new goalkeeper, which Freiburg have done by recruiting Elvira Herzog from Köln. Tyara Buser, a young Swiss forward, joins her compatriot Herzog in the Black Forest this season. With this squad, Freiburg probably won’t surprise anyone either positively or negatively, with another mid-table finish very likely.
Player to watch: Sandra Starke
Namibian-born German international Sandra Starke is key to Freiburg’s fortunes. Having broken into the German national team last year at age 26, Starke needs to have a big season in order to stay in Martina Voss-Tecklenburg’s consideration, especially since younger options Bühl and Lea Schüller are now preferred to complement established stars like Alex Popp and Svenja Huth. If Starke can replicate a double-digit scoring season like what she managed in 2014/15, Freiburg might just surprise us and climb into the top-half of the league.
Part 2, covering the Frauen-Bundesliga clubs predicted to finish in the top-half, to come soon…