DUSSELDORF, Germany (AP)Spare a thought for German soccer fans over the holidays. Not only did their national team’s World Cup end embarrassingly early in the group stage, they face a long wait to see any club games.

The German Bundesliga doesn’t return from its post-World Cup break until Jan. 20. That’s by far the latest resumption of the big five European leagues and comes nearly a month after the English Premier League restarted with its traditional Boxing Day program on Dec. 26.

By the time the Bundesliga finally gets underway with Bayern Munich’s visit to Leipzig, it will have been 50 days since Germany went out of the World Cup and 68 since the last league game – nearly as long as the summer off-season break.

One argument for the German league’s traditional three- or four-week winter break is that it gives players much-needed rest. This season it comes at a cost.

The winter World Cup means that when Germany restarts, it has to pack games into a tighter schedule. Bayern’s players start with five domestic games in 17 days. Union Berlin will cram 10 games into 36 days thanks to German Cup and Europa League commitments.

The long break has left teams – especially those who contributed fewer players to World Cup squads – with little to do but keep fit and play exhibition games.

In the lead-up to the World Cup, some German clubs took off to the United States or Japan for the kind of promotional tours that have been a rarity during the coronavirus pandemic. More recently, there’s been a trend of friendlies against Swiss and Austrian teams. Bayern has a post-World Cup training camp in Qatar starting Jan. 6, potentially including World Cup runners-up Dayot Upamecano, Kingsley Coman and Benjamin Pavard, then a friendly Jan. 13 with Salzburg.

The long break creates breathing space for injured players to return. That could benefit Bayern’s Sadio Mane after the Senegal forward missed the World Cup with a leg injury. Leipzig’s Timo Werner is aiming to return against Bayern on Jan. 20 after a torn ligament ruled him out of playing for Germany in Qatar.

One who won’t be back, however, is Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer. He used his vacation time to go skiing in the German Alps and broke his leg in an accident, ruling him out for the rest of the season.

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