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What’s the Deal with 1. FC Kaiserslautern?

FC Kaiserslautern

The Germans are coming again! Much like last season’s match against SC Paderborn 07, Allianz Field will be hosting another international friendly match this Wednesday, June 28. The Loons are taking on a different group of Deutschland’s finest this time around, welcoming 1. FC Kaiserslautern to town. Before we welcome our guests to the pitch, let’s figure out who the heck they are and why we’re excited to have them.

Founding Fathers

FCK has existed under various names since 1900, settling on their current title in 1933. They’ve represented the Rhineland-Palatinate of southwest Germany for more than a century now and were even one of the 16 founding members of the German Bundesliga in 1963. Their story is as old as German soccer itself, and it’s filled with passion, pride, and plenty of twists and turns.

The Red Devils, a nickname they earned for the color of their home kits, play at the Fritz-Walter-Stadion in the city of Kaiserslautern, Germany. The historic stadium opened in 1920, atop the famous Betzenberg hill that overlooks the rest of the city. Its maximum capacity is a whopping 49,850, more than double the size of our beloved Allianz Field.

Former German international Fritz Walter was the stadium’s namesake and an eternal legend in German soccer. He spent almost his entire career playing for FCK, captaining club and country to success and notoriety. After winning two league titles for Kaiserslautern, Walter and four other FCK players formed the backbone of the German national team that won the 1954 World Cup, the first of the four titles their nation has claimed.

Soccer is more than a game on top of the Betzenberg; it’s a rallying cry. Our guests live and breathe this sport, bringing a fighting spirit and passion few teams around the world could hope to match. With over 400 official fan clubs and a wall of 15,000 supporters in their equivalent of the Wonderwall, we’re going to have to crank up the volume to make these visitors feel at home.

FCK Fans

Success and Setbacks

Though they’ve been around for 123 years, there are some periods that stand out more than others. For FCK, the 1950s and 1990s brought plenty of success, including league titles in 1951, ‘53, ‘91, and ‘98. They’ve collected the DFB Pokal on two occasions (1990 and 1996), a competition comparable to the U.S. Open Cup.

From 1963 to 1996, the Red Devils enjoyed a 33-year stay in the German top flight after its founding. They finally faced the drop in 1996, winning the DFB Pokal within a week of suffering relegation to the 2. Bundesliga. They didn’t stay down, though, earning their way back to the top for their historic 1998 season, when they became the only team in German soccer history to win the first-division title in their first season after promotion. Remember when Leicester won the Premier League? Imagine if they had done that in their first season. That’s nuts.

Since their 1998 triumph, the road has been a bit bumpy for FCK. After bouncing up and down between the first and second divisions for a few years, 2018 saw the club relegated to the third division for the first time in their history. Though it took a few years to right the ship, the Red Devils found their feet again in 2022, earning promotion to the 2. Bundesliga and filling the Fritz-Walter-Stadion with hope once again.

State of the Club

This past season, FCK finished 9th in the 2. Bundesliga in their first season after promotion. Their ambition and heritage continue to push them to reestablish themselves in the top flight, but their return will have to wait at least one more season. Former USMNT forward Terrence Boyd was the team’s top scorer last year, notching 13 goals in 33 appearances.

Despite playing in the second tier, FCK averaged more than 40,000 fans at their 2022–23 home matches, the second highest average in the world for a club playing in their nation’s second division. No matter the circumstances, the stadium on top of the Betzenberg is a football cathedral.

While Kaiserslautern natives make up the majority of the club’s loyal fanbase, there is an American flair as well. Ramstein Air Base is located near the city and consists of 50,000 people, making it the largest U.S. military community outside of the United States. This base has turned plenty of Americans into FCK fans, creating a unique bond between this southwestern German club and the U.S.A.

Wednesday’s match has absolutely nothing at stake; however, that doesn’t mean this match is meaningless. The game is at its most beautiful when it’s simply bringing people together and spreading joy, and that’s exactly what’s going down at Allianz Field in this mid-week matchup. Besides, friendlies may not affect any trophies, but bragging rights are still a good enough prize to set up an entertaining game.