The 2.Bundesliga has come to end after a wild final day, and the promotion, relegation, and play-off places have all been confirmed. It is FC Heidenheim who will face Werder Bremen in the play-off to decide who will play in the Bundesliga next season.
Despite a 3-0 defeat at champions Arminia Bielefeld, Heidenheim finished in 3rd place after an almighty slip up from Hamburg. The Volksparkstadion outfit only needed a draw against SV Sandhausen to leapfrog Heidenheim, but were thrashed 5-1 on home turf to condemn them to a third season in the second tier.
A win in the play-off would see Heidenheim play in the top tier for the first time ever in their history. So who are they, and what chances do they have of upsetting the odds against a side that beat Köln 6-1 on the final day of the Bundesliga season?
Heidenheim come from the city of the same name in the south-western German state of Badem-Württemburg and stand in their current guise after a 2007 separation from the Heidenheimer Sportbund (HSB) - a sports club of over 6,000 members from 27 different departments.
As recently as 2004 they played in the Verbandsliga Württemburg, the sixth tier of German football, before spending four years in the Oberliga. After a sole season in the Regionalliga Süd they achieved a double promotion and reached the 3.Liga for the first time in their history. They achieved promotion to the second tier in 2014, beating runners up RB Leipzig on goal differential having lost just five matches all season.
They enjoyed a good debut season in the 2.Bundesliga, finishing in 8th place before establishing themselves as a staple outfit in the division. Last season's 5th place finish was an excellent platform that ultimately led to this seasons surge to 3rd.
In charge at the Voith Arena is club stalwart and hometown boy Frank Schmidt. He has been at the club since 2007, making him the longest serving manager in German professional football, some five years ahead of his nearest challenger. Schmidt ended his playing career at the club when they were still known as HSB, making 112 appearances and scoring 22 times as a defender. He guided them to the local Würtemmburg Cup championship five times, as well as winning both the Regionalliga and 3.Liga titles. Howeve,r a promotion to the Bundesliga would likely be a career zenith.
Home for Heidenheim is the Voith Arena, which was expanded to its current capacity of 15,000 in 2015. Should the club achieve promotion, it will be by far the smallest stadium in the Bundesliga, which could lead to an intimidating environment for some of the division's behemoths.
The club's leading scorer this campaign has been Tim Kleindienst. With 14 goals, the prolific forward has been crucial to the club's success and despite only two goals since the league's return from hiatus - a brace against Jahn Regensburg - he is a man who knows where the net is. At 6 foot 3, he is a towering prospect, and has led the way throughout the season. The former Energie Cottbus man joined the club in September of last year from SC Freiburg.
Club captain Marc Schnatterer has been at Heidenheim since 2008 and is a cult hero amongst the fanbase. The 34-year-old is closing in on 350 appearances for the side and has been the lynchpin at the heart of the midfield. He has played in three different leagues with the Badem-Württemburg side.
According to Der Spiegel, 22-year-old Niklas Dorsch is their playmaker, and has been credited for to the club's upswing. Chosen by the fans as Player of the Season in the last campaign, stats from Der Spiegel show he has made the second most passes in the league as well as playing the most long balls. Internally, no Heidenheim player has completed more dribbles. The former Bayern Munich academy player once occupied the former room of Real Madrid star Toni Kroos at FCB's boarding school, and it is clear he has picked up some of his skills, while also having completing more tackles than any other player in the league.
What are their chances?
Since the the relegation play-off was brought back into the German football pyramid in 2008, only three second tier club's have beaten their Bundesliga opponent to win promotion. It will be a tough task to join the list of Nürnberg, Fortuna Düsseldorf and Union Berlin, but Werder Bremen have been unpredictable this season, so Heidenheim should have every chance of causing an upset.
Bremen spent most of the season as dead certainties for automatic relegation, with their second chance only coming after an uptick in form after the league's return. After 6-1 and 5-1 wins over Köln and Paderborn respectively, Die Grün-Weißen have shown their ability to score a bucket load when needed, but have also shown their weaknesses at the back, having shipped 69 goals throughout the campaign.