Founded in 1904 as the Turn- und Spielverein der Farbenfabriken vorm. Friedr. Bayer & Co. (TuS 04 for short), the club played its first official game against Ballspielverein Manfort in 1907.
In 1979 – 72 years and many, many games later – Bayer 04 Leverkusen finally made it into Germany's top soccer league, where it has remained ever since.
The upward momentum continued throughout the 1980s. Having first qualified for European competition in 1986, the club won the UEFA Cup in 1988 with a team that included Herbert Waas, a striker in the German national team, the Brazilian star Tita and South Korea's soccer idol Bum-Kun Cha.
Bayer 04 also enjoyed a large measure of national and international success from the 1990s onward. In 1993, it won the DFB Cup and, since the 1992/93 season, the team has finished high enough in the league to qualify for European competition on no fewer than 17 occasions. Achievements definitely worth mentioning include finishing as second in the German league five times and reaching the 2002 Champions League final. This record has given the team the reputation as being perennial runners-up, which is reflected in the affectionate nickname “Vizekusen”. Players such as Ulf Kirsten, Bernd Schneider, Bernd Schuster, Carsten Ramelow, Michael Ballack and Rudi Völler are just some of the players who have contributed to the club's successes.