I was asked by the guys at Football Kitbox (@footballkitbox) to write a little piece on the Danish Superliga to coincide with their #DenMayrk kitboxes launch. During the month of May, they are promoting the ‘wonderful design culture of Danish football shirts‘ by including a shirt from one of the Danish league teams within their monthly kitboxes, as well as introducing the teams on their Twitter profile.
If you wish to know more about Football Kitbox, and their excellent monthly football kit subscription service, please check them out at www.footballkitbox.com.
The Danish Superliga is Denmark’s top league in the Danish football pyramid. It was founded in 1991 to replace the old Danish First Division, and initially started with ten teams within the league. However the number of teams have been expanded since that inaugural season, and this season has 14 teams whom compete within it.
The league is currently in respectable 16th position within the UEFA league coefficient table, thus ensuring that a total of four Danish teams can qualify for European competitions. One team qualifies for the second qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League, whilst three more qualify for the UEFA Europa League (one Danish team entering the continental competition in each of the first, second and third qualifying rounds of the Europa League).
The Regular League Phase
The Danish league campaign is structured into two phases of the season. In the Superliga’s first/regular phase, the league starts in the common league format, with each team in the league playing fixtures against each other, both home and away. Eventually once every team in the league has played 26 games, a league split occurs between the Championship Group, and the Relegation/European Group.
A league split is becoming an increasing common occurrence within football schedules, with many leagues that have a smaller number of teams within it (such as Belgium, Wales, Poland, South Korea, etc.). Adopting this method is a way of extending the season, or adding more excitement towards the end of the season by adding the reward of playoffs for continental qualification spots.
The Second Phase
In Denmark, the second phase of the season is slightly different to usual league splits in other countries. After 26 league games have been played, the top six teams of the regular league phase then progress to compete in the Championship phase, to determine the league champion. The six teams, within this top ‘mini-league’, then play against each other home and away again, to finish the season having played 36 games in total.
This season’s Superliga champions were FC København (FC Copenhagen), who managed to win their thirteenth Danish league title, and their third in the past four seasons. The runners-up were the defending champions, FC Midtjylland, who finished a considerable eleven points behind the capital club, but still subsequently qualified for the Europa League. However the Ulvene could be content with their season despite failing to defend their league trophy. They managed to lift their maiden DBU Pokalen (Danish Cup), by beating Brøndby IF 4-3 on penalties, after both teams had drawn 1-1 following regulation and extra time at the Parken Stadium.
As FC Midtjylland have won the national cup, it has put them into the third qualifying round of the 2019-20 Europa League, meaning that the third-place side would subsequently qualify for the second qualifying round of the Europa League. Surprisingly, with one game remaining, the team in pole position to claim this place was the newly-promoted side, Esbjerg, who are ahead by a single point from Odense, who are situated in fourth place. However Brøndby IF still have a chance of claiming the 4th position, as they are only three points behind OB, and with a superior goal difference. Excitingly, both teams are playing each other this coming weekend!
Currently if Odense or Brøndby are to get European football next season, they must have to earn it via the European playoff final match (more of that later on).
With one game remaining, only the clubs in 3rd to 5th had anything to play for. In the end, Esbjerg confirmed third position with a 2-1 win over runners-up FC Midtjylland, to qualify for the second round of the 2019-20 Europa League. Whereas the battle for fourth position was won by Brøndby IF who managed to beat Odense 2-0 on the final day of the season, to leapfrog them into the European playoff spot. With both sides finishing on 52 points, Brøndby’s superior goal difference of +8 (in comparison to Odense’s 0) ensured they reached the playoff final.
The remaining bottom eight teams of the regular Superliga season are divided into two groups of four – Group A & Group B. The teams finishing the regular season in 7th, 10th, 11th and 14th are placed into one group, and those finishing 8th, 9th, 12th and 13th are placed into the other. The sides then play each team within their specific group home and away again, to finish their season after 32 league games.
The European Playoffs
The top two sides of Groups A & B then qualify for the European playoffs, whereby the group winner plays the runners-up of the other group over two legs. For this season, it meant that Aarhus GF (Group A winners) played against Aalborg BK (Group B runners-up), and SønderjyskE (Group A runners-up) played against Randers (Group B winners).
The winners of these quarter-final playoff games, then play each other in the semi-final, over two legs (at time of writing, Randers were currently leading 2-1 after the first leg). The victor of this semi-final playoff, then earns the right to play the 3rd or 4th placed team (dependent on whether the Danish Cup winner finishes in the top 3) in the Championship group in the European Playoff final. Therefore the winner between Randers and AGF, will play Esbjerg/Odense/Brøndby in a one-legged match to discover who will be Denmark’s representative in the first qualifying round of the Europa League.
Randers earned the right to reach the European playoff final, as they managed to draw 1-1 with AGF in the second leg, to progress to the final 3-2 on aggregate.
In the final, held at Brøndby’s Brøndby Stadium (the perk of being the highest placed team in the playoff), the home side produced a fierce second half comeback to win the tie 4-2 and qualify for the First Qualifying Round of the 2019-20 Europa League. The Boys from the Westside had found themselves 0-2 down after Kallesøe and Aaquist had put Randers in front, but three goals in seventeen minutes from Wilczek, Kaiser and Halimi, put Brøndby in control, before an own goal from Riis in the 89th minute, confirmed that the famous Danish side would play in Europe in the following season.
The Relegation Playoffs
The two teams who finish third of their respective groups, play each other in a two-legged playoff, with the winner guaranteeing their safety in the Superliga for the following season. However the losing side must then play a relegation playoff against the third-placed team in the First Division, with the winner securing their position in the Superliga for the following season.
This season it was Horsens who played Vendsyssel, and it would be Horsens who would secure their Superliga berth, by winning the playoff 2-1 on aggregate. Vendsyssel must now play Fremad Amager, with the winner claiming a Superliga spot and the loser either remaining or getting relegated to the First Division.
The two sides who finish bottom of their respective groups, also play each other in a two-legged playoff. There is increased pressure in this game as the loser in this playoff is automatically relegated to the First Division, and replaced with the champions of the First Division. However the winners of the playoff are not secure, and must then play another two-legged relegation playoff against the runners-up of the First Division to finally confirm their Superliga place. The winner of that relegation/promotion playoff then secures the final spot in the Superliga for the following season.
The relegation playoff would be played against Hobro and Vejle, and it was Vejle who suffered relegation, after losing the tie 1-2 on aggregate. They will be replaced by the First Division champions, Silkeborg IF, for the 2019-20 Superliga season. Hobro now have a second “bite of the cherry” to maintain their Superliga tenure, as they play the First Division runners-up, Viborg FF, over two legs, with the winner claiming the final Superliga spot for the 2019-20 season.
There were also changes in the First Division, as I failed to spot that there was one game remaining in the league above. Despite Viborg FF winning their final league game, Silkeborg IF also managed to win their remaining game to claim the league title by a single point, and gain promotion to the 2019-20 Danish Superliga. Viborg would have to be content with a runners-up spot and a playoff game against Hobro.
The third placed spot also changed hands in the final game of the First Division season, as Fremad Amager lost their last match, whilst Næstved BK could only draw their respective game but move above Fremad Amager on goal difference. Ultimately it was Lyngby BK who snatched the playoff spot at the death, when their 2-1 win ensured they leapfrogged Fremad Amager and Næstved to claim the playoff position by two points.
In the promotion/relegation playoff games, Viborg suffered further heartbreak after just missing out on the First Division title, as they were defeated by Hobro 0-3 on aggregate to miss out on promotion once again. However, Lyngby had contrasting fortunes to Viborg, as a 2-1 victory and 2-2 draw with Vendsyssel, was enough for the Royal Blues to sensationally earn promotion to the 2019-20 Superliga, by winning 4-3 on aggregate, and confirm Vendsyssel’s relegation to the First Division.
For further information on the Danish Superliga, please check out their official website: