ESV Ingolstadt (Eisenbahner-Sportverein Ingolstadt-Ringsee e.V.) was founded in 1919 as FC Viktoria. Two years later the football players of Turnverein 1861 Ingolstadt joined the club to form VfR Ingolstadt. A number of other clubs from the Ringsee district fused with this club, but to little effect. The club's achievement amounted to not more than a couple of seasons spent in the Gauliga Bayern in 1936–38. After World War II, the club was re-constituted as VfR Ingolstadt, changed its name to Erster Sportverein Ingolstadt (First Sports Club Ingolstadt) in 1951 and then changed it again to its current form in 1953 when "E" came to stand for Eisenbahner to reflect its affiliation with the railway.
ESV Ingolstadt joined the Regionalliga Süd (II) in 1963 when the Bundesliga – Germany's professional football league – was formed. After bouncing between tiers II and III, capped with two seasons spent in 2nd Bundesliga Süd from 1979–81, the club began a descent through tier III to Landesliga Bayern-Süd (IV), last playing in 1993–94. The sports club itself carried on until it went bankrupt in the summer of 2004 and those football players there were left to join FC Ingolstadt 04. ESV continues to operate today offering a number of other sports activities while acknowledging FC 04 on its website.
MTV Ingolstadt ( Männer-Turn-Verein von 1881 Ingolstadt) is the city's largest sportsclub with 3,400 members and has an on-and-off relationship with its football side. The club was founded in 1881 and took up football in 1905. The footballers set up a separate club in 1924, but returned to the fold in 1933 at the direction of sports authorities in the Third Reich. After World War II occupying Allied authorities ordered the dissolution of all organizations in Germany, including sporting associations. The club was re-founded as Städtischer SV Ingolstadt 1881. Their original name was restored in 1948.
MTV spent two seasons in 2. Bundesliga Süd after Amateurliga Bayern champion 1. FC Haßfurt declined promotion in 1978. When ESV faced bankruptcy in 2004, MTV allowed its footballers to leave to help form FC Ingolstadt.
In 2004–05, newly formed FC Ingolstadt began play in the Oberliga Bayern (IV) and managed to finish second in their first season. Their success continued in 2005–06 when they captured the divisional title and won promotion. They finished their debut Regionalliga Süd (III) campaign 2006–07 with a fifth place result. League restructuring was planned for the 2008–09 season with the introduction of a national 3rd division and FC would have to finish their 2007–08 Regionalliga season in the top 10 to qualify. They exceeded that goal by finishing second and advancing to the 2. Fußball-Bundesliga.
Ingolstadt won its debut second division match, but the following months proved less successful for the club and by the mid-winter break they had dropped to 12th place. The latter half of the season proved even worse with the club only realizing 1 win in 18 matches. They finished the season in 17th place and were subsequently relegated to the 3. Liga.
FC delivered a steady performance in third division play and ended their campaign in third place. A new promotion/relegation format accompanied the introduction of the 3. Liga and the club's finish earned them a playoff versus FC Hansa Rostock which had finished in 16th (third last) place in the 2. Bundesliga. Ingolstadt won both legs of the two match playoff and returned to the second division alongside the top two third tier teams which advanced automatically by virtue of their finishes.
FC Ingolstadt 04 II played the 2011–12 season in the Regionalliga Süd after finishing runners-up in the Bayernliga and taking FC Ismaning's promotion spot after the later declined promotion. In the 2012–13 season the team will play in the new Regionalliga Bayern.
The club nickname Die Schanzer has a military background, meaning trenchmen or rampartmen. The official club anthem is called "Schanzer Herz", performed by Ingolstadt based hard rock band Bonfire. The stadium's goal theme song is "Esellied", performed by South Tyrol band Volxrock. The pre-kick-off song is "Thunderstruck" by AC/DC.
With the introduction of the Regionalligas in 1994 and the 3. Liga in 2008 as the new third tier, below the 2. Bundesliga, all leagues below dropped one tier. With the establishment of the Regionalliga Bayern as the new fourth tier in Bavaria in 2012 the Bayernliga was split into a northern and a southern division, the number of Landesligas expanded from three to five and the Bezirksoberligas abolished. All leagues from the Bezirksligas onwards were elevated one tier.