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Danish Superliga Overview

The Danish Superliga resumes after the winter break this weekend, so we have rounded up all you need to know on its format, history and key players.

Format

Since the 2019/20 season, the Superliga has consisted of 12 teams each playing each other home and away in a 22-game regular season. 

The league then splits into two with the points tallies carried over as the top six sides contest the championship play-offs facing each other home and away again. Whichever side then finishes first are crowned Superliga champions. 

The same format follows for the bottom six teams, with the bottom two sides after all teams have again played each other home and away are relegated to 1.Division. The winners of this mini division play the fourth-placed team from the championship group in a one-off match to decide who qualifies for Europe.  

League history

Founded in 1991, the Superliga initially began with 10 teams playing each other in a season stretched over two calendar years but from 1996 to 2016, it was expanded to 12 clubs playing each other three times. 

The play-off structure was introduced for the 2016-17 campaign after the league had introduced a further two teams the previous season. After a 26-game regular season, the play-offs saw teams finishing in the top six play each other again, whereas the bottom six split into two groups with the 7th, 10th, 11th, and 14th teams playing again and the 8th, 9th, 12th, and 13th facing off.

In a convoluted system, the league would then split again into four knockout scenarios. 

  • The third-placed teams in each group play over two legs, with the winners remaining in the Superliga and the losers advancing to a playoff final against the third-place team from the 1st Division.
  • The bottom teams in each group play over two legs, with the winners advancing to a play-off final against the second-place team from the 1st Division, and the losers dropping to next season’s 1st Division.
  • The winners of each play-off final play in the next season’s Superliga.

Champions

The most successful side in Superliga history are FC Copenhagen who have won 13 titles, which includes eight in 11 years from 2002-03, although the last two campaigns have seen them finish third and second. 

Brøndby have won the second-most titles with seven and are the reigning champions, finishing one point clear of Midtjylland despite not boasting the best attack or defence. This was a welcome change for the top flight as the previous six titles had been shared between Midtjylland and Copenhagen. 

Brøndby and Copenhagen are the only ones to have claimed three straight titles with the former achieving it first, from 1995-96 to 1997-98, before the capital side matched them from 2008-09 onwards. 

European qualification

Currently, the league champions earn entry into the Champions League play-off round while the runners-up enter European football’s premier competition in the second qualifying round. 

The third-placed side will now enter the Conference League second qualifying round while the winners of the qualifying play-offs will play the fourth placed team from the championship group in a one-off match to decide who qualifies for Europe.  

Copenhagen have played in Europe 15 times, the most of any Superliga club, reaching the Champions League group stage four times and becoming the first team from Denmark to qualify for the knockout stages when they reached the round of 16 in 2010-11. Their best European run came in 2019-20 when they lost in the quater-finals of the Europa League to Manchester United

Player and manager records

The all-time top goalscorer in Superliga history is Morten Rasmussen who scored 145 times for AGF, Brøndby IF, AaB, and FC Midtjylland before finishing his Danish football career in 2018. 

His best goal scoring season came for Brøndby in 2006-07 when he scored 15 goals in 19 matches even though his side finished a disappointing sixth. Despite his consistency, the forward who started and ended his career in Denmark at AGF never once finished as the league’s top marksman. 

Ramus Wurtz has made the most appearances in the Danish top-flight with a mammoth 452 games, including over 350 times in two spells for Aab. 

In contrast to his longevity, the Skive native did not have a trophy-laden career, his only two trophies coming in 2013-14 when Aab beat Copenhagen to the league title and the Danish Cup. 

Notable players

One of Denmark’s greatest ever players, Peter Schmeichel, began his career in his home country with Gladsaxe-Hero, but it was a four-year spell at Brøndby that caught Europe’s attention and earned him a move to Manchester United in 1991 where he won five Premier League titles, the Champions League and five domestic cups. During that time he also helped Denmark famously win the 1992 European Championship

Michael Laudrup only featured briefly in the Superliga, playing just over 50 times for KB and Brøndby, but his talent was unparalleled as he went on to play for Juventus, Barcelona and Real Madrid, winning four consecutive La Liga titles and the European Cup with the Catalonia-based side. In 2006 he was voted Denmark’s best player of all time and was twice named Denmark Player of the Year. 

Of the best foreign players in the Superliga, Dame N’Doye featured for Copenhagen in two spells and scored 90 goals, enough for a place in the league’s top 10 all-time scorers. These goals helped his side to four league titles and saw him become only the third player in history to finish as the Superliga top scorer in consecutive seasons with 25 goals in 2010-11 and 18 in 2011-12. 

I am a freelance journalist for the International Blind Sports Association (IBSA), International Wheelchair and Amputee Federation (IWAS) and Why Can’t We specialising in para sport. Writing for It’s All Sport To Me, this will be my focus as I feel it is an area that deserves more coverage in the wider mainstream media. Since an early age I have been interested in para sport due to having cerebral Palsy but being at the London 2012 Games was when I knew I really wanted to work in the industry. Being a Watford supporter, mainstream sport is also a passion of mine and I will be writing weekly about La Liga and Ligue 1.

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