Take a snapshot of the Champions League last week and you'd be tempted to spot a shift in soccer's balance of power. Three of the four English clubs involved in the competition lost. And they weren't beaten by the game's elite, but by the relative rank-and-file. Chelsea, which won this competition last year, fell at Shaktar Donetsk. Manchester City, the defending Premier League champion, lost at Ajax, a team tied for fourth in the Dutch league. Arsenal raised the white flag at home against Germany's Schalke. Manchester United was the only English team to actually win and, even then, it had to come from two goals down at home against Portugal's Braga, which is only third in its decidedly B-list domestic circuit.
Contrast this with the Bundesliga clubs. In addition to Schalke's win in London, Bayern Munich BAYN.XE +0.69% won away at Lille and Borussia Dortmund bested none other than Real Madrid. Indeed, if you extend it out to the Europa League—soccer's secondary continental competition and home to another four German clubs—the Bundesliga's record is simply exceptional: played seven, won six, tied one, lost none.
Perhaps it was a blip, but there is little question the Bundesliga is on the rise. Last year, it leapfrogged Italy's Serie A to move into third place in UEFA's national league rankings, which look at the past five seasons. Spain's Liga and England's Premier League remain well ahead in terms of results, but what's interesting is how the German model differs from the English one. And how, in some ways, the domestic leagues reflect the nations they represent.