In a season (with fixtures typically starting in mid-July and ending in late May of the following year, with a four-week winter break), 18 Bundesliga teams compete for the title of German champion. Matches are played in a round-robin mode in first and second leg ties (at home and away).
At the end of the season, the bottom two of the table are relegated directly to the Bundesliga 2, from where the top two teams move straight up to join Germany's elite league. The club placed 16th in the Bundesliga and the club finishing third in Bundesliga 2 are pitted against each other in two play-off ties (at home and away), adding to the end-of-season excitement.
Since 1995/96, the three-point rule is being applied. The winner of each match gets three points (formerly two), and in case of a tie each team gets one point, the loser of the match gets none.
The German champion and the runner-up are qualified automatically for the Champions League, the "Top-Flight Class" in the European club contest.
Starting with the season 1999/2000, the Champions League was extended to 32 clubs. Thus, it is also possible for the third and fourth-placed of the Bundesliga to qualify for the Champions League. They enter in the third qualifying round. The teams participating in this round can be sure that in case they drop out they will still have the guarantee to start in the UEFA Cup. If a team wins in one year the German championship and the Champions League, the Bundesliga will have no right for an additional place in the Champions League in the following year.
The fifth and sixth of the Bundesliga and the winner of the DFB cup - or the finalist, in case the cup winner should be entitled to start also in the Champions League - are qualified for the first UEFA cup round. Two clubs - the seventh and the eighth of the table, unless the cup winner occupies this place, and provided the respective club has signed up - may qualify via the UI cup for the UEFA cup.
By way of the draw procedure, the fairest Bundesliga club may get a place in the UEFA cup qualification, provided Germany has made at least 8000 points in the international fair-play contest. Should in the "five-years fair-play contest" Germany drop to the fourth place, - for which all of the clubs who started in the European championship matches are responsible, however, not the national team - the fourth-placed in the Bundesliga will lose in the year after the next the starting permission for the Champions League qualification, and the sixth of the table loses starting permission for the UEFA Cup. This does not apply during the running season.
Starting with the season 1999/2000, the European cup of the cup winners has been eliminated.