1. FC Saarbrücken is a German association football club based in the city of Saarbrücken, Saarland. The club began its existence as the football department of Turnverein Malstatt formed in 1903. That department split off in 1907 to form the independent football club FV Malstatt-Burbach and on 1 April 1909 was renamed FV Saarbrücken.
The club became part of the tier-one Kreisliga Saar in 1919, where it played with moderate success, a second place in the leagues last season, 1922–23 being its best result. From 1923, the club played in the Bezirksliga Rhein-Saar – Saar division, winning the title there in 1927–28 but missed out on qualification to the new Gauliga in 1933.
The team made its way to first division play in 1935 in the Gauliga Südwest, one of sixteen regional divisions established in the re-organization of German football under the Third Reich. A league shuffle saw them in the Gauliga Südwest-Saarpfalz in 1940 and they won the division the next year. In 1943 they again won their division – now called the Gauliga Westmark – and advanced through the playoff rounds to the national final where they were defeated 0:3 by Dresdner SC. The next year they only made it as far as the quarterfinals where they were put out by 1. FC Nuremberg. During the last years of World War II in 1943–1945 the team had played as a combined wartime side (Kriegsspielgemeinschaft Saarbrücken) with SC Altenkessel.
After the war, occupying Allied authorities dissolved all forms of organizations within Germany, including sports and football clubs. The team was allowed to reform late in 1945, but only under the new name 1. FC Saarbrücken. The club played its first three seasons of postwar football in the first division Oberliga Südwest-Nord, winning the division championship in 1946.
The German state of Saarland, where the city of Saarbrücken is located, was occupied by the French after the war. They made various efforts to see the state become independent of Germany or join France. In sport this was manifested as separate 1952 Olympic and 1954 World Cupteams for Saarland and the establishment of a short-lived football league for the state called the Ehrenliga. In 1948, 1. FC Saarbrücken was one of a number of sides forced out of German football, but unlike other clubs they did not play in the puppet league: instead the strong side became part of the French second division as FC Sarrebruck. They won the division but were refused promotion or further participation, mainly due to the resistance of other clubs, among them RC Strasbourg who had been forced to play in Germany during the Second World War.
Saarbrücken withdrew from the league and began play in a series of friendlies over the next two years. They organized a tournament in 1949–1950 called Internationaler Saarland Pokal (International Saarland Cup) that had them play fifteen home matches against teams from Austria, Chile, Denmark, France, Sweden, Switzerland, and Yugoslavia. The top three sides then joined hosts Saarbrücken in a playoff round, which the home team eventually won in a 4–0 victory over Stade Rennais UC of France. The next year fellow Saarlanders VfB Neunkirchen co-hosted the tournament which this time included more German sides. The tournament was abandoned for 1952 as agreement was reached to allow teams from the Saarland re-admission to the German Football Association.
This episode in the history of German football would play itself out with the odd appearance of a separate side from Saarland in the 1954 World Cup preliminary rounds. Without a proper home in either of the German or French leagues, Saarland had established a separate football association with membership in FIFA. 1. FC Saarbrücken sent ten players to that national side and the Saarlanders acquitted themselves well, finishing second in their group ahead of Norway and behind group winner West Germany. Saarbrücken would also make an appearance in the 1956 European Cup as Saarland's representative and go out against AC Milan in the first round, after winning its away leg.
Return to German football and entry to the Bundesliga
Saarbrücken returned to the Oberliga Südwest in 1952 and continued their winning ways by capturing the division and advancing to the national final for the second time, dropping a 1:2 decision to VfB Stuttgart. They continued to field strong sides but over the next decade could only manage one more Oberliga title, in 1961.
In 1963, Germany finally saw the creation of a top flight national league with the formation of the Bundesliga. Sixteen teams were selected to play in the new league based on their performance, financial health and a geographical distribution intended to fairly represent all parts of the country. The first eight selections were straight forward and included divisional champions and the national finalists. Saarbrücken's selection to the new league was arguably the most controversial as the club's recent record was not as good as their divisional rivals Neunkirchen, FK Pirmasens and Wormatia Worms. The belief is that their advantage lay in the fact that the club had a long association with Hermann Neuberger, an extremely influential figure in German football – and a member of the selection committee.
At the end of the inaugural Bundesliga season in 1963–1964 Saarbrücken found themselves dead last, seven points short of safety. The club was relegated to the second tier Regionalliga Südwest where they finished strongly in each of the next three seasons, but were unable to advance through the Bundesliga promotion rounds. They were finally able to make their way back to the top flight after a first place finish in the 2nd Bundesliga Süd in the 1976 season. After two seasons there the team returned to second division and by 1981 had slipped to the Amateur Oberliga Südwest (III). There were two more turns in the Bundesliga, in 1986 and 1993, both ending in relegation. A financial crisis in 1995 led to the club being denied a license and had them sent down to the Regionalliga West/Südwest (III). Saarbrücken has since become an "elevator crew" with frequent moves between tier II through V football. During this time the club remained a strong local side with a half dozen Saarland-Pokal wins to its credit.
1. FC Saarbrücken finished 16th in 2005–06 and was relegated to the Regionalliga Süd (III). Another poor showing in 2006–07 saw the club in 15th and relegated again, this time to the fourth division Oberliga Südwest, where they narrowly missed out on Regionalliga promotion in 2007–08. However, they finished champions of Oberliga Südwest in 2008–2009 season and promoted to the Regionalliga West. In May 2010, they finished champions of Regionalliga West in 2009–2010 season and were promoted to the 3. Liga, making it two consecutive promotions. They started slowly at this level, but finished in sixth place having won the last 9 games of the 2010–11 season and remained at this level until 2013–14, when a disastrous season saw it finish bottom of the table, having used 36 players and got through four managers.
The club's reserve team, now the 1. FC Saarbrücken II, playing as the 1. FC Saarbrücken Amateure until 2005 during the times the senior side played in professional football, first made an appearance in the Ehrenliga Saarland from 1948 to 1951. It made a reappearance in the highest league of the state in 1986, now the tier four Verbandsliga Saarland and won the league in 1988. Nine seasons in the Oberliga Südwest, now the Oberliga Rheinland-Pfalz/Saar followed. The team was relegated from the Oberliga in 1997, 2001 and 2007 to return each time a short while later. In 2002 it won the Saarland Cup for the first and only time! thereby qualifying for the first round of the 2002–03German Cup where it lost to Arminia Bielefeld. It has been playing at this level since the last promotion in 2010, achieving a fourth place finish as its best-ever result in 2013.