Winning nine-straight titles in any league is a challenge. Doing it in one as top-to-bottom tough as the Bundesliga is insane.
But that’s precisely what Bayern Munich aims to do this season after collecting the European Cup and the German Cup to go with their eighth-consecutive domestic league title in 2019-20.
In short, it was one of the most impressive runs in soccer history.
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And while it’s borderline insane to imagine that Hansi Flick will improve his personal winning percentage after debuting with 33 wins, a draw, and two losses, it’s fair to posit that Bayern is better talent-wise.
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Loanees Ivan Perisic and Philippe Coutinho are gone but Leroy Sane has arrived from Manchester City, 19-year-old Alphonso Davies will enter his first full season at left back and only six squad members are above the age of 30 (Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Muller, Manuel Neuer, Javi Martinez, Jerome Boateng, and backup goalkeeper Svein Ulreich).
Even if Thiago Alcantara leaves for Liverpool, Barcelona, or Manchester United, the club can trot out a midfield duo of Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka that was at times similar to a trio in how it covered ground.
Will they win the league? Anything can happen, but all signs point to “Be surprised if they don’t.”
Barring any transfer developments over the next few weeks, the arguments for any team challenging Bayern for the title comes from player development and evolution.
Excluding Achraf Hakimi, Borussia Dortmund hasn’t lost anyone of consequence from the 2019-20 team that, like Bayern, stumbled early but found their footing with the addition of Erling Haaland in January and emergence of Giovanni Reyna (more on him later).
Now BVB has Marco Reus healthy for the first time in ages as well as solid depth with Thomas Meunier and the permanent addition of Emre Can. Youngsters Jude Bellingham and Reinier, the latter on loan from Real Madrid, will hope to be the latest young players to go from prospect to star at the Westfalenstadion.
The same hope will be held by Borussia Monchengladbach, who has not lost much. Gladbach has thusfar held onto Marcus Thuram, Alassane Plea, and Denis Zakaria.
RB Leipzig will hope to find an answer for the exit of Timo Werner. Salzburg’s Hee-chan Hwang has arrived and hopes to help fill his shoes but a lot will be asked of returnees like Tyler Adams, Dani Olmo, and Marcel Sabitzer.
1. Giovanni Reyna, Borussia Dortmund — A regular contributor who now looks like a starter, the son of USMNT legend Claudio Reyna doesn’t even turn 18 until November.
2. Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig — Perhaps the best possession player in the USMNT pool, Adams brings Champions League scoring experience into his latest Bundesliga foray.
3. Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen — Bremen manager Florian Kohfeldt sees the youngster as a surefire starter at the outset of the season, and he’s already opened his account for 2020-21.
4. John Brooks, Wolfsburg — How healthy can he stay? Because the giant center back is coming off a season with some of the best form stretches of his life.
5. Timmy Chandler, Eintracht Frankfurt — Still in the picture deep in his career, Chandler had some big moments for the German Cup semifinalists last season.
6. Nick Taitague, Schalke — Hopefully the 21-year-old can stay healthy, because the opportunities to impress should be there with Weston McKennie gone and Schalke playing very poorly to finish last season.
7. Julian Ryerson*, Union Berlin — Has never appeared for the U.S. but is eligible for the squad as a dual national. Has featured heavily for Norway at youth levels.
On the way up?
Hertha Berlin? The question mark is for real, as the club looks improved on paper and allowed just 11 goals in going 4W-1D-4L after the league restarted in May. Hertha now gets the services of Lyon star Lucas Tousart, a steady central midfielder who has offensive upside and scored against Monaco and Juventus last season. Can Dodi Lukebakio and Matheus Cunha take the next steps, and can they either get Marko Grujic back or find someone as effective as he was on loan from Liverpool? The Reds are reportedly keeping him until at least January.
Hoffenheim went 5-2-2 when the Bundesliga returned, better than anyone not named Bayern or BVB. Depth will be tested by the Europa League.
They won’t challenge for the title, but expect Werder Bremen and Koln to be markedly better after finishing 12-plus goals worse in goals conceded versus expected goals conceded (And for what it’s worth, Freiburg got stupid lucky in the opposite direction).
On the way down?
As good as RB Leipzig has been at replenishing its talent after sales, picking up the attacking pieces with Timo Werner at Chelsea is a big ask.
There’s no doubt Julian Nagelsmann will orchestrate a sound unit with a near-weekly advantage in tactics, but it will take some serious efforts to keep them in the top three conversation.
Likewise, Chelsea hit the fortunes of Bayer Leverkusen when it bought Kai Havertz. The capture of Patrik Schick is not like-for-life but will help the attack but what to do if Leon Bailey also skips town before the end of the transfer window?
Arminia Bielefeld won 2.Bundesliga and is back in the Bundesliga for the first time since the 2008-09 season. A crazy final day saw Stuttgart make its way back to the top flight and managed by American boss Pellegrino Matarazzo.
Bundesliga 2020-21 table prediction
1. Bayern Munich
2. Borussia Dortmund
3. Borussia Monchengladbach
4. RB Leipzig
6. Bayer Leverkusen
7. Hertha Berlin
9. Eintracht Frankfurt
10. Werder Bremen
12. Union Berlin
16. Arminia Bielefeld
How to watch Bundesliga 2020-21 season streams and start time
Kickoff: Friday through June
Online: Select games on ESPN+
Updates: Follow Bundesliga scores via NBCSports.com