For more than a decade 1. FFC Turbine Potsdam, 1. FFC Frankfurt and FCR 2001 Duisburg have monopolised the German women's title between them but a new force is now emerging.
VfL Wolfsburg have never finished above fifth in the Frauen-Bundesliga yet when they resume their campaign after the winter break this weekend they lie fourth, behind Frankfurt only on goal difference, within a point of Duisburg and just six behind leaders Potsdam, held 1-1 at Hamburger SV on Wednesday.
With a game in hand on both reigning champions Potsdam and their fellow UEFA Women's Champions League quarter-finalists Frankfurt, that gives Wolfsburg a real chance of being only the second team from outside the 'big three' to qualify for Europe after FC Bayern München in 2009/10.
"Our minimum goal before the season was fourth place," Wolfsburg coach and sporting director Ralf Kellermann told UEFA.com. "But we are now in a great position to maybe fight for a spot in the Champions League. We enjoy this position as we do not feel any pressure."
If they do make the UEFA Women's Champions League, they will have a strong squad to maintain Germany's fine record in the competition. Having already signed last season's Bundesliga top scorer Conny Pohlers, along with Josephine Henning, Lena Goessling and Nadine Kessler, in the summer, they have also secured two more Germany players – Duisburg duo Alexandra Popp and Luisa Wensing – for 2012/13 despite interest from Potsdam and Frankfurt.
"Nowadays these players are deciding to join us," said managing director Thomas Röttgermann. "Not for financial reasons, but because they are convinced of our consistent and ambitious project."
Kellermann, a Wolfsburg scout until taking his current role in 2008, is certain his side will be in Europe before long. "I do not think it would be too early for us to play in this competition, especially taking into account that we will add Popp and Wensing to the squad," the former second-tier goalkeeper said. "I think we could deal with the challenge and we would enjoy playing in it. But it wouldn't be a huge setback if we didn't qualify this year, as the team is strong enough to reach that goal next season."
Off the pitch, Wolfsburg "have excellent training facilities, it's a two-minute walk to the fitness centre, there is a good infrastructure and a good team spirit" according to Kellermann. They have seen a 20% rise in crowds to an average of more than 1,000 since last year's FIFA Women's World Cup, where Wolfsburg staged four games including Germany's quarter-final elimination by Japan.
"We have benefited from being a World Cup venue," Kellermann added, "and we can see in our daily work that the reception of women's football has changed, there is more respect."
Germany coach Silvia Neid welcomes the extra competition Wolfsburg are providing. "We have waited for Wolfsburg to come up," she said. "It is a good thing, when more and more teams have the chance to win the German championship. It is positive and exciting for everyone involved."
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