Michael Will/Associated Press
One of Bayern's biggest advantages in creating their hegemony in the Bundesliga is simply a matter of geography. Apart from near-insolvent 1860 Munich (which they have kept on the football equivalent of a feeding tube in recent years), there are no traditional Bundesliga clubs anywhere near Munich. Nurnberg is 169 km north on the A9, Stuttgart is a 219 km drive westward and Freiburg is 352 km away from Munich.
Bayern's entire lack of competition in the general vicinity of Munich has been critical to their success in recruiting young talent as well as the support of fans in what is the wealthiest area of Germany. Philipp Lahm is a Munich man through and through, but Mr. Bayern himself, Bastian Schweinsteiger, was born 62 km away, in Kolbermoor. Thomas Muller's hometown was 52 km away from Munich. And Holger Badstuber was born 114 km from Munich, in Memmingen.
Bayern's sphere of influence extends even into Austria, a neighboring country with no top-class teams in its Bundesliga and more cultural and linguistic similarities to Bavaria than even the north and west of Germany. At present, one in seven of Bayern's reserves was born or spent most of his life in Austria.
Dortmund have it much harder than Bayern, geographically speaking. As the crow flies, Schalke's Veltins Arena is approximately 15 km from the Signal Iduna Park in adjacent Gelsenkirchen, and Leverkusen and Monchengladbach are both located within 100 km of Dortmund. Traditional sides Koln, Fortuna Dusseldorf and Bochum are also found under 100 km from Dortmund, with the 2. Bundesliga leaders Koln especially known for their academy, which sent youth internationals to play with the German under-18, 19, 20 and 21 teams in recent internationals.
The Ruhr and surrounding area is the heart of German football and is somewhat sacred. But if Dortmund are to challenge Bayern, they may have to risk earning a similar reputation as a vulturous club. The way forward would be to create partnerships with local clubs that would see BVB send unneeded reserves to Ruhr area clubs in the lower divisions in exchange for rights to first refusal on rising stars from these clubs.
The advantage to lower clubs like Duisburg and Bochum, would be having players on hand who can keep them from sinking into oblivion (Duisburg were relegated to the 3. Liga by default last summer for failure to meet financial standards for the 2. Bundesliga), whereas Dortmund would have access to some top local talents.
Schalke are known for plundering the 2. Bundesliga for talent, notably signing Joel Matip and Leon Goretzka from Bochum. BVB would be wise to similarly pursue local talent, but with formal agreements in place to ensure that they (and not Leverkusen and Schalke) have access to the best of the best.