Danish Superliga
Credit: Brøndby IF

Danish Superliga: Your essential guide to Denmark’s top footballing division

Denmark and Britain have a lot in common; bad weather, excessive beer consumption, and a love for football. But while the English Premier League is one of the world’s most famous brands and successful sporting stories, the same isn’t necessarily true for the Danish Superliga. 

Nonetheless, the Danes love their country’s top footballing division. Match day is a chance to strengthen regional pride, and the league has produced several players who’ve enjoyed success overseas. 

The fixture list also provides a few feisty encounters throughout the year that could rival any big European derby. 

The Danish Superliga is a complex beast, and its structure is a little different from some of Europe’s major sporting divisions. Its schedule also differs a little from the Norwegian and Swedish top flights. 

So, how does the top Danish football league work? What are the biggest clubs, and who are some of its best-ever players? Keep reading, and we’ll reveal all that you need to know. 

When was the Danish Superliga formed? 

The Danish Superliga was formed in 1991 and was part of a shift in Scandinavia towards more of a commercialised game. Before the Superliga’s inauguration, Denmark’s top football clubs had competed in the 1st Division — which is now the country’s second-highest level of the sport. 

The Danish Superliga took place across a single calendar year when it was first introduced. However, organisers changed this from the second year onwards. 

The commercialisation of Danish football has been somewhat successful. Since the league was founded, it has attracted some of Denmark’s most prominent companies as a sponsor. 

In 1996, the division was named after Faxe Kondi — a soft drink that you can only purchase within Denmark. Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) is another notable former sponsor. 

Who are the top Danish football teams? 

For the most part, you’ll see the same names at or around the top of the Danish soccer league table each season. We’ve listed three of the biggest clubs in Denmark below before going into detail on each of them. 

Danish Superliga
Credit: Biser Todorov

FC Copenhagen 

FC Copenhagen, also known colloquially as FCK, is a merger of Kjøbenhavns Boldklub and Boldklubben 1903. Since it was founded in 1992, the club has enjoyed significant success domestically. 

FCK has finished top of the Danish Superliga on 13 occasions. The most recent title was in 2019 when they beat local rivals Brøndby (more on them in a moment) to seal the crown. In addition to that, the club has finished runners-up on seven occasions. 

FC Copenhagen has also won eight Danish Cups, the country’s equivalent of the FA Cup. 

On top of its domestic success, FCK often flies the Danish flag in European competitions. The club reached the quarter-finals of the Europa League in 2020 when they were knocked out by Manchester United after extra time

It has also featured several times in the Champions League; in the 2010/2011 season, the club reached the last 16, losing to English heavyweights Chelsea.  

Many of the club’s Danish Superliga titles have come in clusters. Between 2003 and 2007, FCK finished top of the table in four of those five campaigns. It then did the same between 2009 and 2013. 

FC Copenhagen’s home games are played at Parken in the Danish capital’s Østerbro district. With a capacity of 38,000, it’s also where the Danish national team plays the majority of its home games. 

Danish Superliga
Credit: Werner100359

Brøndby IF 

Brøndby play their home games just outside of Copenhagen. Whereas their biggest rivals are in one of the capital’s wealthiest neighbourhoods, the club hails from a more working-class part of the city. 

Brøndby is a little older than FCK, having been founded in December 1964. The club enjoyed significant success in the Danish Superliga’s early days, winning the first season in 1991 and then picking up three titles in a row between 1995 and 1998. 

In the early 2000s, Brøndby remained competitive at the top of Danish football. The club won the Superliga in 2002 and 2005 before going on a barren run. Brøndby came close to ending their dry spell in the 2017/2018 campaign but ultimately finished four points behind FC Midtjylland. 

In 2021, after a 16-year wait, the club finally returned to the pinnacle of Danish football. Brøndby won the Superliga on the final day with a 2-0 victory against FC Nordsjælland, which saw the side finish one point ahead of Midtjylland. 

Ironically, FCM lost 4-2 to FCK a few weeks before the end of the campaign — which ultimately played a role in them only finishing runners-up. 

FC Midtjylland

FC Midtjylland is one of Denmark‘s newest football clubs; it has only been around since 1999. 

In more recent years, the club has become a menacing force domestically. FC Midtjylland set themselves apart by using an extensive scouting network and football data, along with the “Moneyball” concept that has helped Brentford—with which the club has close ties—achieve promotion to the Premier League. 

FC Midtjylland won its first Danish Superliga title in 2013/2014, which followed on from its second-placed finishes in 2007 and 2009. Since then, the club has finished top of the pile in Denmark in 2018 and 2020. 

FCM has a notably high number of foreign players in its squad, many of whom come from Brazil. It has also managed to get hold of Danes who’ve already played abroad, including Pione Sisto, Jonas Lössl and Henrik Dalsgaard. 

FC Midtjylland has featured in the group stage of the Champions League once. This came in the 2020/2021 season when it finished bottom of a challenging group involving Ajax, Liverpool and Atalanta. 

In addition to its solitary Champions League campaign, FCM finished second in its Europa League group in 2015/16. The group featured Belgian side Club Brugge, plus Italian giants Napoli and Polish side Legia Warsaw. 

Other notable Danish football clubs 

Besides the big three, Denmark has a couple of other notable clubs. AaB, also known as Aalborg BK, were the first Danish football club to play in the European Cup after it rebranded to the Champions League. 

Except for FC Copenhagen, no other club from the country has played in the Champions League on more occasions. Its last appearance in the group stage was in the 2008/2009 season, when it finished third in a tough group with Manchester United, Villarreal, and Celtic —  and picked up a credible 2-2 draw at Old Trafford. 

AaB has won the Danish Superliga four times, with its most recent victory coming in 2014. It has also lifted the Danish cup on three occasions, finishing runners-up nine times. 

AGF, which plays its home games in the second-largest city Aarhus, is one of the most notable Danish football teams. The club is one of the country’s oldest, with its football team existing since 1902. 

When today’s Champions League was known as the European Cup, AGF played in the first-ever edition. The side reached the quarter-finals, where they lost to eventual champions Benfica. 

AGF hasn’t yet won a Danish Superliga title but did finish top on five occasions in the pre-Superliga days. The club has won the most Danish Cup titles, picking up the trophy nine times. The most recent of these was in 1996, and AGF finished runners-up in 2016. 

Who are some of the best Danish Superliga exports? 

Since the Superliga came into existence, several Danish soccer players and foreigners plying their trade in the league have gone on to bigger and better things elsewhere. 

Below, we’ve picked four names you might be familiar with. You’ll discover what they did during their time in Denmark, how they’ve fared since, and what they’re up to now. 

Danish Superliga
Credit: Futbol61tstrabzon

Peter Schmeichel 

Peter Schmeichel is undisputedly one of the best goalkeepers to have ever graced the beautiful game, along with one of the best Danish football players. But what you might not know is that he had a pretty lengthy career in Denmark before taking the world by storm. 

Schmeichel played over 100 games for Brøndby and featured for them in the first-ever Danish Superliga season. Before that, he played for Hvidovre — where he even scored six goals in a single campaign! 

After leaving Brøndby, Schmeichel moved to Manchester United and became a legend at the Red Devils. He featured almost 400 times in all competitions under Sir Alex Ferguson, where he was a part of the iconic 1998/1999 treble-winning team. 

When he departed United, the Great Dane helped Sporting Lisbon win its first Portuguese league title in almost two decades. Schmeichel later returned to England to play for Manchester City and Aston Villa before retiring in 2003. 

Besides several club awards, Schmeichel was also a vital member of the Danish team that won EURO 1992 against all odds. He picked up several individual accolades during his career, including Danish Footballer of the Year and UEFA Goalkeeper of the Year. 

Danish Superliga

Simon Kjær

Simon Kjær captains the Danish national football team and has become an icon in his homeland. At the beginning of his career, he played a season in the Superliga for FC Midtjylland before starting a footballing adventure around Europe. 

Kjær first joined the Italian side Palermo before moving to Germany to play for VfL Wolfsburg. Between two campaigns as a regular for Wolfsburg, he spent a season on loan at Roma. 

The midfielder-turned-defender then played for Lille in France, Turkish outfit Fenerbahçe and Spanish club Sevilla before returning to Italy. He played a few games on loan for Atalanta and did likewise for AC Milan before permanently joining the club in 2020. 

Since moving to the San Siro, Kjær has become an integral part of the Milanese outfit. He was also crucial in Denmark’s surprising run to the EURO 2020 semi-finals, where they lost to England after extra time. 

In 2021, Kjær featured among the men’s nominees for the Ballon d’Or. He also received a UEFA President’s Award for his role in helping the medical team save teammate Christian Eriksen, who collapsed during Denmark’s opening EURO 2020 match with Finland. 

Danish Superliga
Credit: Web Summit

Martin Braithwaite

Another key member of the Danish EURO 2020 side was Martin Braithwaite, who was born in Esbjerg and began his senior career with his hometown club. He played a season for them in the second division after they were relegated, before playing every league match in the Superliga in their first season back. 

After leaving Esbjerg, Brathwaite signed for French side Toulouse. He then moved to English outfit Middlesbrough, who were playing in the Championship. 

While Braithwaite was at Middlesbrough, he spent some time on loan at Bordeaux in the 2017/18 campaign. The following year, he joined the Spanish side Leganés on a temporary basis—before moving there permanently. 

Braithwaite completed a shock transfer to Barcelona in 2020, where he has played more than 40 times for the Catalan side. He featured several times for Denmark at EURO 2020 and scored in the team’s 4-0 win against Wales. 

Danish Superliga
Credit: Inge Knoff

Daniel Agger 

If you’re from outside of Denmark and have heard of any former Brøndby player, who you knew played for Brøndby, it would probably be Daniel Agger. The Dane spent 10 years at the club, two of which were in the senior side. 

Agger was instrumental in Brøndby’s 2004/05 Danish Superliga title-winning team but suffered an injury in the following campaign. The defender joined Premier League giants Liverpool in January 2006, where he spent eight years. 

When he left Liverpool, Agger made a surprise return to Brøndby in 2014. He spent a further two seasons there before announcing his retirement. 

In his time as a player, Agger played over 70 times for Denmark and captained his country at EURO 2012.

The Danish Superliga’s biggest rivalries

Generally speaking, Danish Superliga teams have attendances that are lower than in many other European leagues. However, the calendar still throws up some pretty feisty fixtures.

Below, we’ve broken down the most eagerly anticipated fixtures on the Danish footballing calendar. 

FC Copenhagen vs. Brøndby 

FC Copenhagen vs. Brøndby, also known as the Copenhagen derby, is undisputedly the most significant domestic game in Danish football. In terms of atmosphere, it could rival any match in Europe and beyond. 

The game is referred to by many as the “New Firm”, and the two sides have faced each other over 100 times since the first match in 1992. FCK has won over 50 of the encounters, while Brøndby has been victorious on more than 30 occasions. 

Brøndby has the largest derby win to date, beating their cross-city rivals 5-0 in 2005. 

Because of how the Danish fixture system is structured, FCK and Brøndby often face each other 3-4 times per season. There have also been several encounters in cup competitions, including one in the final of the 2016/17 Danish Super Cup — which FCK won 3-1. 

FC Copenhagen vs. AGF

Compared to Brøndy, FC Copenhagen vs. AGF is a lot friendlier. The game is a face-off between the leading clubs in Copenhagen and Aarhus, Denmark’s two largest cities. But beyond that, it’s also a chance for Jutland to get one over the perceived snobs of Sjælland. 

FCK and AGF have faced each other over 70 times in all competitions, with FC Copenhagen winning most of these fixtures. Oddly enough, most of AGF’s victories in this fixture have come away from home. 

While FCK usually features at the top of the Danish Superliga, AGF’s fortunes vary. Sometimes, the two sides will play each other in more seasons than others; the duo rarely face one another in cup competitions. 

AGF vs. AaB

AGF and AaB are two of Denmark’s oldest football clubs. And with both of them being from the two largest cities on the Jutland peninsula, this encounter has historically been important for bragging rights. 

The two sides have faced each other several times in the league, both before and after the launch of the Danish Superliga. AaB and AGF have also locked horns in cup competitions, including the 2019/2020 Danish Cup semi-final — which Aalborg won 3-2. 

In more recent years, AGF has come face to face with several teams form near Aarhus. These include Randers, FC Midtjylland, and Silkeborg IF. Nonetheless, the fixture with Aalborg remains eagerly anticipated each year. 

How is the Danish Superliga structured?

Okay, so we’ve touched upon the biggest teams in Denmark — plus the most important games on the footballing calendar. You’ve now got everything you need to know about the Danish Superliga, other than its structure. 

Below, you’ll find out about how the Danish Superliga table is formed — plus how the season works. 

The Danish Superliga table 

The Danish Superliga table bears a lot of similarities to Scotland’s top flight. 12 teams play in the division each season, with the winners qualifying for next season’s Champions League play-off round. 

There, they’ll face another European side over two legs; if they win, they’ll reach the group stage — and if they lose, they’ll drop into the Europa League

Whoever finishes second in the division will win a place in the Champions League second qualifying round. From there, they’ll need to go through various qualifiers to reach the group stage. 

Third and fourth place in the Superliga qualifies for the Europa Conference League second qualifying round, though the team finishing in fourth will lose this right for the 2023/2024 season. 

Whoever wins the Danish Cup receives a place in the play-off round of the Europa League; for 2023/24, the fourth-placed side’s place in the Conference League second qualifying round will go to this team instead. 

At the other end of the table, two teams get relegated to the Danish 1st Division—with two sides replacing them from the country’s second tier. 

The Danish Superliga schedule 

When it comes to structuring and schedules, football in Denmark is a little complex if you’ve never followed it before. Each Superliga season, every team plays 32 games. The sides will play 22 matches, to begin with, facing each side home and away once. 

Around springtime, the league then splits in two. The top six sides play each other twice more in the Championship round, with the bottom six participating in the relegation round. All teams keep their points from the regular season. 

Denmark’s professional football season runs from August to May. This is slightly different from Sweden and Norway, where the campaign lasts from late March or early April until November. 

While Denmark has milder winters than its northerly cousins, the Superliga takes a winter break each year — lasting from December to February. In that break, clubs might still play continental games if they’re in one of the European competitions. 

Football in Denmark is a complex beast with some intriguing encounters

Unless you live in Denmark or have close ties to the country, the Danish Superliga probably isn’t the first footballing division you’ll pay attention to. But if you’re willing to give it the time, you might find that it surprises you — especially when it comes to the top games. 

If you move to Denmark, you’ll notice that many people have a close affinity to their local Superliga sides — even if they support a big Premier League team like Liverpool or Manchester United too. And since the Danes love football, going to games is an excellent way to make friends and integrate with Danish society. 

Like football, beer in Denmark is immensely popular. The country has birthed some of the world’s most famous brands and breweries, and you’ll struggle to avoid a Dane drinking the stuff on a warm summer’s day. If you’re planning a trip, why not check out Copenhagen’s beer scene

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