The DFB-Pokal which until 1943 was the Tschammer-Pokal [tʃaːmɐ poˈkaːl], English: German Cup) is a German knockout football cup competition held annually by the German Football Association (DFB). 64 teams participate in the competition, including all clubs from the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga. It is considered the second most important club title in German football after the Bundesliga championship. From August to May, the winner qualifies for the DFL-Supercup and the UEFA Europa League unless the winner has already qualified for the UEFA Champions League in the Bundesliga.
The competition was founded in 1935, then called the Tschammer-Pokal. The first title holder was 1. FC Nürnberg. In 1937, Schalke 04 was the first team to win the double. The Tschammer-Pokal was suspended in 1944 due to World War II and disbanded after the demise of Nazi Germany. In 1952–53, the cup was reinstated in West Germany as the DFB-Pokal, named after the DFB, and won by Rottweiler Essen. (The FDGB-Pokal, the East German equivalent, began in 1949 and ran until the 1991 season, when it merged with the DFB-Pokal).
Bayern Munich won a record 20 titles. The current holders are RB Leipzig, who won their first title in the 2022 final by beating SC Freiburg 4–2 on penalties. Fortuna Düsseldorf held the record for most consecutive tournament game wins (18) between 1978 and 1981, winning the cup in 1979 and 1980.
The DFB-Pokal started with 64 teams. 36 teams from the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga, including the top four finishers of the 3. Liga automatically qualifies for the tournament. Of the remaining slots, 21 are awarded to the cup winners of the regional football association, the Verbandspokal. The remaining three slots are given to the three regional associations with the most men’s teams They can allocate slots as they see fit, but usually it goes to the runner-up in the Association Cup.
Since every team participating in the German football league system is entitled to participate in local tournaments that qualify for the Association Cup, every team can, in principle, compete in the DFB-Pokal. The only exception is that reserve teams (eg Bayern Munich II) are ineligible for entry.
For the first round, the 64 teams are divided into two pots of 32. Pot 1 contains the 18 teams from the previous season in the Bundesliga and 2. the top 14 teams from the previous season in the Bundesliga. In the other pot 2. Bundesliga, the top 4 teams from the previous season of 3. There are 24 amateur teams that qualify through Liga and regional football tournaments. Teams from one pot are drawn against teams from another pot. Since 1982, teams from pots featuring amateur teams have played home games.
For the second round, the teams are again divided into two pots according to the same principle. Depending on the outcome of the first round, the pot may not be equal in number. Teams from one pot are drawn against teams from another pot until one pot is empty. The remaining teams are then drawn against each other and the first drawn team plays at home.
For the rest of the rounds, except for the final, teams are drawn from one pot. Since 1985, the final has been held at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin.
Historically the number of participants in the main tournament has varied between four from 1956 to 1960 and 128 from 1973 to 1982 resulting in tournaments ranging from two to seven rounds. Since the inception of the Bundesliga in 1963, all clubs in the Bundesliga automatically qualify for the DFB-Pokal, as do all clubs in 2. -Pokal but excluded since 2008.
The final has been held at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin every season since 1985. Before 1985, the host of the final was decided at short notice. In the decision, the German Football Association took into account that, due to the political situation between Germany and East Germany, Berlin was not chosen as the venue for UEFA Euro 1988.
Originally cup games were played in two 45 minute halves with two 15 minute overtime periods in case of a draw. If the score is still level after 120 minutes, the game is played in reverse at home. In 1939 the semi-final between Waldhof Mannheim and Wacker Wien in the Tschammer-Pokal was drawn three times before it was decided to play by lot. The German Football Association decided to have a penalty shootout if the replay was another draw after a similar situation arose in the 1970 Cup, when two draws between Alemannia Aachen and Werder Bremen had to be decided by lot.
In 1971–72 and 1972–73, the match was played over two legs. The second leg was extended by two additional 15-minute overtime periods if the aggregate was a draw after both legs. If no decision is reached in extra time, a penalty shootout is held.
In 1977, the final 1. FC Köln vs. Hertha BSC had to be replayed, causing great logistical difficulties. Subsequently, the DFB decided not to replay future cup finals instead of a penalty shootout after extra time. Eventually, this change was extended to all cup games in 1991
Since 1960, the DFB-Pokal winner qualifies for the European Cup Winners’ Cup. If the cup winner has already qualified for the European Club Champions Cup, the losing finalist moves to the Cup Winners’ Cup instead. After the abolition of the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1999, the winner of the DFB-Pokal qualifies for the UEFA Cup, known since 2009 as the UEFA Europa League. If the DFB-Pokal winner or both finalists qualify for the Bundesliga European Cup. In competition, the Bundesliga’s best-placed team has not already qualified for at least the Europa League.