Bundesliga vs Serie A

Bundesliga Vs Serie A – What’s The Difference?

Last updated on January 16th, 2022

If you’re looking at the top football leagues in Europe, you may have come across 2 popular ones: Bundesliga (Germany) and Serie A (Italy).

How are these 2 competitions different from each other, and which one is better?

Here’s what you need to know:

The difference between Bundesliga and Serie A

The Bundesliga includes the top 18 teams in German football, while Serie A involves the top 20 clubs in Italian football. Both of these competitions mainly differ in terms of their qualification and squad rules.

Here is a further explanation of these 2 competitions:

Number of teams involved

The Bundesliga is the only competition among the top 5 leagues in Europe to have 18 teams. This was due to historical reasons that happened in 1965.

Meanwhile, Serie A has 20 teams, similar to the other top leagues in Europe, including:

  1. Premier League
  2. La Liga
  3. Ligue 1

Origin of teams

The teams in the Bundesliga originate from Germany, while those in Serie A originate from Italy.

Here are some of the top teams from each country that have been playing in these leagues:

BundesligaSerie A
Bayern MunichJuventus
Borussia DortmundInter Milan
RB LeipzigAC Milan
VfL WolfsburgAtalanta

If you’re wondering what does VfL stand for in Wolfsburg, you can check out my guide here.

Since both of these countries are UEFA nations, teams from these countries will be able to participate in the Champions League.

Frequency and duration of competitions

Both competitions have a similar schedule, where they will start in August, and then end in May.

This is similar to the other top European leagues as well.

For both Serie A and Bundesliga, they usually have a 2-week winter break, starting in mid-December and then beginning the competition again in the first week of January.

In contrast, there are other competitions like the Premier League which do not have a fixed winter break.

Format of competition

Both the Bundesliga and Serie A follow a double round-robin league format. Each team will play against the other clubs in the league.

For Bundesliga, each team will play against 17 other teams, for a total of 34 matches. Meanwhile, for Serie A, each team plays against 19 other teams, for a total of 38 matches.

Squad size

For the Bundesliga, it is not clear how the big squad size can be. However, each club must have a minimum of 12 German players under contract.

8 of these players have to be trained locally, while the other 4 can be trained by a club or association in Germany.

The matchday squad of each Bundesliga team must have no more than five non-EU representatives too.

For Serie A, there has to be a maximum of 25 players to be registered, with some home-grown rules including:

  • Four players are ‘home-grown’ in Italy
  • Four players have to be ‘home-grown’ from the club’s respective youth academy

You can find out more about the home-grown player rule for the different competitions in my guide.

Qualification for competition

The Bundesliga contains the top 18 teams in German football. Every season, the bottom 2 teams will be relegated, and the top 2 teams from the 2. Bundesliga will be promoted.

The 3rd bottom team (16th placed) in the Bundesliga will compete with the 3rd-placed team in the 2. Bundesliga in a relegation playoff match.

This is a 2-legged match where the first match is played at the home of the Bundesliga side, while the second leg is played at the home of the Bundesliga 2 side.

Here is an example of the playoff between Union Berlin and VfB Stuttgart.

For Serie A, the top 2 teams of Serie B will be automatically promoted. If the 3rd-placed team in Serie B is 10 or more points ahead of the 4th-placed team, it is automatically promoted too.

If that is not the case, a playoff tournament will result. This is more complicated compared to the playoff tournaments in other leagues, as it is based on the number of points that set apart the teams between 3rd and 8th place.

An example was Venezia FC, who was in 5th place in Serie B, but emerged as the playoff winners to book the last slot in the Serie A.

So long as any of these teams finish within 14 points of the 3rd placed team in Serie B, they will participate in the playoff tournament. As such, there can be up to 3 rounds in the tournament, depending on the number of teams that participate.

UEFA competitions placing

Your team will be eligible to qualify for UEFA competitions, based on how they perform in the league. The qualification is the same for both competitions:

League positionQualification for
UEFA Competition
Top 4 teamsChampions League
group stage
5thEuropa League
group stage
6thEuropa Conference
League play-offs

However, this is not considering the slot that is reserved in the Europa League for the cup winners. In the event that 6th place wins the domestic cup (DFB-Pokal or Coppa Italia), they will qualify for the Europa League and not the Europa Conference League.

The Europa Conference League play-off spot will be given to the next highest team that has not qualified for a European competition yet.

Rewards for winning competition

Here are the rewards your team will receive when they win either competition:

BundesligaSerie A
Prize MoneyDistribution modelBased on performance
Qualification for next
season’s Champions League
YesYes
Qualification
for Super Cup
DFL-SupercupSupercoppa Italiana

Interestingly, the Bundesliga has a unique way of distributing the prize money. It follows this model of:

  • 65% of the yearly pool divided equally
  • Other 35% is divided according to league positions in the last 5 years

Meanwhile, the prize money for Serie A is more straightforward, where it is based on the position of the team. In the 2020/21 season, the winner received €23.4m, with the 2nd-placed team receiving €19.4m.

The winners of both leagues will qualify for the Champions League group stages. Moreover, they will play in the German and Italian versions of the Super Cup.

The super cup is usually the curtain raiser of the football season. This is played between the winners of the league and the cup of that particular country.

You can find out more about how a Super Cup works by reading my Guides on the FA Community Shield and the UEFA Super Cup.

Dominance of teams

In this section, we will be looking at the past winners of these 2 leagues:

BundesligaSerie A
Bayern Munich
(2012/13 – 2020/21)
Inter Milan
(2020/21)
Borussia Dortmund
(2011/12)
Juventus
(2011/12 – 2019/20)

For both competitions, they have been mainly dominated by one team in the league. This is especially in the Bundesliga, where Bayern Munich has 9 consecutive titles!

As such, both leagues may not be as exciting as other leagues that have different winners over time.

Champions League performances

In this section, we will see how the clubs from these leagues have performed in the Champions League. This is the best indicator of how well the league is as a whole, since the Champions League is a competition between the top European clubs.

To make a fairer comparison, I will be looking at the semi-finalists for the past 5 years that come from either league:

SeasonBundesligaSerie A
2020/2100
2019/202 (Bayern
and Leipzig)
0
2018/1900
2017/181 (Bayern)1 (Roma)
2016/1701 (Juventus)

Overall, both leagues have pretty similar performances in the Champions League, except for the 2019/20 season where there were 2 semi-finalists from the Bundesliga.

Verdict

Here is a summary of the comparison between these 2 leagues:

BundesligaSerie A
Number
of teams
1820
Origin
of teams
GermanyItaly
FrequencyAnnuallyAnnually
Duration10 months10 months
FormatDouble round-robinDouble round-robin
Number
of matches
3438
Squad sizeMinimum 12 German
players under contract
25
(8 homegrown)
QualificationTop 2 from 2. Bundesliga

3rd in 2. Bundesliga has playoff
with 16th in Bundesliga
Top 2 from Serie B
3rd – 8th may have playoff
Prize MoneyDistribution modelBased on position
Qualification for next
season’s Champions League
YesYes
Qualification
for Super Cup
DFL-SupercupSupercoppa Italiana
Dominance
of teams
Mainly BayernMainly Juventus
Champions League
performances
(semi-finals)
3 semi-finalists
in past 5 years
2 semi-finalists
in past 5 years

Is Serie A better than the Bundesliga?

The Bundesliga may be better than Serie A in terms of Champions League performances, where there are 3 semi-finalists in the past 5 years compared to Serie A (2 semi-finalists).

It is quite hard to compare one league to another, and I feel that the best way to do so would be by the Champions League performances!

Conclusion

The Bundesliga and Serie A are 2 of the top footballing competitions in the European football season.

Based solely on the Champions League performances, the Bundesliga takes the slight edge!

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