The 3rd league is the third football league in Germany. The league began with the beginning of the season 2008/09, when she replaced the regional league as a third-rate football league in Germany. In the German football league system it is between the 2nd Bundesliga and the semi-professional regional league, which became the fourth league and initially consisted of three groups of 18 clubs that played separately. In Germany, the 3rd league is the highest league in which the reserve team of a football club can play.
On September 8, 2006, the German Football Association (DFB) announced the founding of the 3rd league. Originally it had been assumed that the league name would be the 3rd Bundesliga, but the DFB decided instead for the 3rd league. This reflects the fact that the league is managed directly by the DFB and not run by the German Football League (DFL) both Bundesliga and 2nd Bundesliga.
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The first match of the 3rd league took place on July 25, 2008 between Rot-Weiss Erfurt and Dynamo Dresden in the Steigerwaldstadion in Erfurt. Dynamo Dresden won the game 1-0, with Halil Savran scoring the only goal in the closing stages of the first half.
From its founding in 2008 to 2013, the league suffered a financial loss, with a record deficit of 20.9 million euros in 2012-2013. In the 2013/14 season, the league first achieved a profit of 4.9 million euros. The league earned 164.5 million euros, far behind the two overlying Bundesliga, but also far ahead of other professional sports leagues in Germany. The German Ice Hockey League followed with 106.1 million euros and the basketball league and the Handball Bundesliga were each around the 90-million-euro mark. This makes it the third most economically successful professional league of all German sports.
At the end of the 2007/08 season, the two best non-reserve teams from the two divisions of the Regionalliga were promoted to the 2nd Bundesliga. The teams, which finished in third place in both regions, entered the new 3rd league and joined the four teams relegated from the 2nd Bundesliga to form the new league with 20 teams. The teams that finished 11th or lower in their regional league stayed where they were.
On 18 May 2008, at the end of the season 2007/08, four clubs were relegated from the 2nd Bundesliga and founding members of the 3rd league: Kickers Offenbach, Erzgebirge Aue, SC Paderborn and FC Carl Zeiss Jena.
On May 31, 2008, the end of the 2007/08 season, the clubs, which finished in the Regionalliga Nord and the Regionalliga Süd, the places three to ten, also qualified for the new 3rd league.
The winner and runner-up in a certain season will automatically be promoted to the 2nd Bundesliga. The third-placed team compete in a home / away match against the 16th placed team of the 2nd Bundesliga to get the right to enter or stay in the 2nd Bundesliga. Teams coming in the lower four places (three before 2019) will automatically be sent to the Regionalliga.
At the end of the regular season, the third-placed team plays in the 3rd league in two games against the 16th placed in the 2nd Bundesliga. The overall winner plays in the following season in the 2nd Bundesliga and losers in the 3rd league.
In the season 2012/13 to 2017/18, the champion of the five Regionalligas and the runner-up of the Regionalliga Südwest played a play-off at the end of the season, in which the three ascended in the 3rd league teams were determined. In the 2018-19 to 2019-20 seasons, three of these five champions will take on a direct promotion as a temporary format while the remaining two will play the playoff for the fourth ascent.
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