From 2024/25: DFB Youth Leagues to replace youth Bundesligas

A reform of the most important youth competitions in German football has been introduced. From the 2024/25 season, the U19 and U17 DFB Youth Leagues will replace the previous U19 and U17 Bundesliga competitions. The aim of the German Football Association (DFB) is "an improved promotion of youth players through to greater creativity, enjoyment of the game and performance levels." Read on for further information on the new youth competition the Bayer 04 U19 and U17 teams will be involved in from next summer.

"The new competition structure makes it possible to have games at the highest level between teams from all over Germany," said Jefta Bresser in explaining the benefits. The new head of the Performance Centre also sees the opportunity of “avoiding defeats being put on the backburner through the abolition of relegation. The development of youth players can benefit from that."

Season divided into two phases

Bundesliga and other league clubs will compete from the start in the U19 and U17 DFB Youth Leagues. All clubs with an academy, like Bayer 04, will qualify for the DFB Youth Leagues. These are divided into two phases:


A preliminary round will be staged in the first half of the season in regional groups that will include a maximum of eight teams in each group. Teams play each other home and away. The top two teams in each group plus the best third-placed sides qualify for League A in the ensuing main round (Hauptrunde) with the other teams playing in League B.


The 24 clubs in League A will be divided up into four groups of six teams with no regional restriction enabling games against teams from across Germany. After ten matches the four best teams in each group will progress to the Round of 16 in the German Championship. That will be followed by knockout rounds to determine the champions of Germany.

The clubs who fail to qualify for League A will play the second half of the season in League B. They will be joined by the eleven best teams from the second tier below the DFB Youth Leagues. League B will have a maximum of eight teams in each group.

seven substitutions possible

To give the opportunity of more game time, each team in the DFB Youth Leagues can make seven substitutions per game (six outfield players plus the goalkeeper). That means all 18 players in a matchday squad can get more minutes on the pitch. There are three windows for substitutions during matches plus half-time.

Several rules and provisions on staging the highest tier of youth competition at the U19 and U17 levels have been adapted with Bayer 04 already meeting those requirements.

from 2025/26: changes in DFB-Pokal

The DFB-Pokal at the U19 level will be increased to 64 teams in the 2025/26 season – in parallel to the senior cup competition. The U19 winners of the cup competitions in the 21 state associations of the DFB and the holders will be joined by all 24 teams in League A in the Hauptrunde of the DFB Youth League plus the 18 best teams from League B. The matches in this competition will be knockout games without a second leg.

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