Background: Whereas an increasing number of pathogenic and mutualistic ascomycetous species were sequenced in the past decade, species showing a seemingly neutral association such as root endophytes received less attention. In the present study, the genome of Phialocephala subalpina, the most frequent species of the Phialocephala fortinii s.l. - Acephala applanata species complex, was sequenced for insight in the genome structure and gene inventory of these wide-spread root endophytes. Results: The genome of P. subalpina was sequenced using Roche/454 GS FLX technology and a whole genome shotgun strategy. The assembly resulted in 205 scaffolds and a genome size of 69.7 Mb. The expanded genome size in P. subalpina was not due to the proliferation of transposable elements or other repeats, as is the case with other ascomycetous genomes. Instead, P. subalpina revealed an expanded gene inventory that includes 20,173 gene models. Comparative genome analysis of P. subalpina with 13 ascomycetes shows that P. subalpina uses a versatile gene inventory including genes specific for pathogens and saprophytes. Moreover, the gene inventory for carbohydrate active enzymes (CAZymes) was expanded including genes involved in degradation of biopolymers, such as pectin, hemicellulose, cellulose and lignin. Conclusions: The analysis of a globally distributed root endophyte allowed detailed insights in the gene inventory and genome organization of a yet largely neglected group of organisms. We showed that the ubiquitous root endophyte P. subalpina has a broad gene inventory that links pathogenic and saprophytic lifestyles.