Top 10 Most Successful Reserve ("B") Teams in Association Football

Tags: #Football ,   #Soccer ,   #RealMadrid ,   #Barcelona ,   #BayernMunich

Michael Wendom

Michael Wendom

Last updated:  2023-05-16 06:00:07

When teams are overloaded with players, they tend to send them on loan. However, some countries allow for the creation of reserve teams, often marked as "B," "Amateur," or "2/II ". What's important is not to confuse them with youth or feeder teams, as they are different categories. These reserve squads usually aren't allowed to play in the top division or even participate in cup competitions. Therefore, it's tough to build a successful reserve team, but as we'll see, some of them still did wonders. So here are the top ten among them, ranked on their overall success.

10. Ruch II Chorzów

Ruch II Chorzów even led in the cup final

While Ruch Chorzów won 14 Polish league titles and even reached the quarter-finals of the European Cup (now Champions League), they are now far away from the top division. Yet, their reserve team, Ruch II Chorzów, always was obscure, playing in the country's lowest leagues. Nonetheless, while in the fifth or sixth tier in 1992/93, they made a miracle that's unheard of in football history.

As reserve teams could compete in the national cup, Ruch II Chorzów first won four times in the regional cup. Next, they followed it with three more wins in the district competition, which qualified them for the main draw. What followed was a string of victories against the top league teams as they somehow reached the finals! Unfortunately, they lost the title, but only after a penalty shootout! In total, they won 14 games, drew three, and lost none. If they won the cup, they would be by far the worst-ranked team to play in the European competitions!

9. Juventus F.C. Under-23

Juventus U-23 can play against Juventus only in friendly games

In 2018, the Italian Football Federation allowed teams to have their Under-23 reserves playing in the national league system. Yet, only Juventus decided to use that possibility. Therefore, Juventus F.C. Under-23 debuted in Serie C, which is the third level of Italian football. However, while they can be promoted, they can't play in the same league or the league above their parent team. Besides that, they aren't allowed to play in the national cup, but only regional ones.

In their first seasons, Juventus F.C. Under-23 proved to be very competitive, and in 2020 they even won the Coppa Italia Serie C. This led them to promotion play-offs, which they failed to win. Nonetheless, the potential is there for the squad to reach Serie B, which would give young players more of a challenge.

8. Hertha BSC II

Hertha II played such a heroic game against Bayer in the cup final

Even for the standards of reserve teams, Hertha BSC II never was particularly successful. Since their foundation, they mostly played in the fifth or fourth tier in the German league system, staying totally obscure. Even worse, their performance in the German amateur football championship was just awful. However, that all changed in the 1992-93 German cup, which turned into a fairytale.

Starting from the second round, they won two matches before dispatching the famous Hannover 96 in the round of 16. With two more successes, Hertha BSC II somehow reached the finals, facing the mighty Bayer Leverkusen. They fought bravely in front of almost 80,000 people until a late Ulf Kirsten goal, making the cursed team win its first German title. No other German reserve team ever managed such a feat, and since they aren't allowed to enter the cup anymore, that won't change.

7. FC Barcelona B

Leo Messi scored some wonderful goals for Barcelona B

FC Barcelona B is one of the most famous reserve teams, so it might surprise you that they aren't ranked higher. Still, they produced more than a few world talents, including Josep Guardiola, Xavi, Carles Puyol, and even Lionel Messi! Barcelona B played at the second-highest level of Spanish football for a long time, with various successes. However, in 2011 and 2014, they finished third, which would qualify them for the promotional play-offs. Yet, they never entered it, as B teams can't play in the highest league.

While the reserve teams could compete in the Spanish Cup until the 1989-90 season, Barcelona B rarely made a massive impact. Only twice they went into a round of 16, with many early eliminations. Today, Barcelona B is mostly playing in the third tier and is often behind other reserves. Still, they keep producing the top talent for the primary team.

6. VfB Stuttgart II

VfB Stuttgart II now plays in the local leagues, far away from their glory days

While VfB Stuttgart II was founded in 1893, their reserve team debuted only in 1959. Playing at the amateur level, they were very successful, winning numerous titles. In 1963 and 1980, they even won the German amateur football championship while losing one final in the meantime. Yet, their most significant success came in 2001 when they finished second in the third tier, effectively qualifying for the Bundesliga 2. However, they weren't promoted as reserve teams in Germany are banned from it.

Nevertheless, until 2008 reserve teams could enter the national cup, and VfB Stuttgart II did it a few times. In 1974-75 they had a deep run as they reached the quarter-finals before losing to Borussia Dortmund. Furthermore, in the 2000-01 cup, they humiliated Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt with a 6-1 win. Yet, in the next round, they faced their first team and lost 3-0. Today, VfB Stuttgart II is far away from their best days, as they usually play at the fifth or fourth tier.

5. FC Porto B

The day when Porto B won the league!

In 2012, the Portuguese football federation allowed reserve teams to play in the second league, so six used that opportunity. Yet, FC Porto B is by far the most successful among them. Rules for B teams in Portugal are pretty strict, as the team needs to have at least ten players aged 15-21. Additionally, only three of them can be older than 23. Finally, reserve teams can't be promoted or participate in the cup competition.

Despite this, Porto B finished their first season in sensational second place, almost winning it. Only two years later, they won the second division, becoming the only reserve team to do so. Since then, Porto B usually stays in the middle of the table while producing more players for their parent team.

4. FC Bayern Munich II 

Bayern Munich II won the 3. Liga in 2020

FC Bayern Munich is the most successful German club by some margin, so it's no wonder that their second team is the best reserve team in the country. Like other similar squads, FC Bayern Munich II first competed at the amateur level, winning several local tournaments. Furthermore, they participated in the German amateur football championship, finishing as runners-up twice. Yet, what makes them the best reserve team is their performance in the third-tier leagues, where they spent most of their seasons. FC Bayern Munich II was constantly among the best teams and even won the division twice. Yet, the rules forbid them 2. Bundesliga promotion.

Their excellent league results also allowed FC Bayern Munich II to compete in the national cup, as they reached the quarter-finals in 1995 and 2005. Another remarkable result came in 1977 when they qualified for the fourth round before losing to their own first team, 5-3. The team also found international success, winning several friendly tournaments, including England's Premier League International Cup.

3. Jong PSV

The legend Ruud van Nistelrooy lead Jong PSV

In 2013, the Netherlands football federation (KNVB) allowed reserve teams to compete in the second league. Yet, by joining this competition, Jong PSV became ineligible for promotion or relegation or competing in the national cup. Finally, the team can have only four players older than 23. Despite these restrictions, Jong PSV made a huge impact so far, three times finishing at the position guaranteeing a promotion play-off.

Before 2013, Jong PSV could qualify for the national cup, as they did it five times. Unfortunately, they didn't have much success, reaching the best 32 only once. However, they faced their parent team in the 2008-09 cup and lost 0-3. This was their final participation in the competition.

2. Jong Ajax

Jong Ajax (Ajax 2) made miracles in the Netherlands cup

Jong Ajax has a similar history as Jong PSV since both teams debuted professionally in the 2013-14 season. Yet, what makes them stand out is that they're the only reserve team ever to win the second division in The Netherlands! In 2017-18 they became the champions by a single point, but of course, they couldn't be promoted to the top level. The Amsterdam club reached the play-off spot on several more occasions, making it one of the best second-division teams overall.

Furthermore, Jong Ajax won the reserves league a record eight times and even qualified for the national cup ten times. Jong Ajax is the best reserve team ever in that competition since they reached the last sixteen six times. This included two quarter-finals and one semi-final in 2002. That time they lost against FC Utrecht, but only after penalties. If they won, they would face Ajax in the finals and could qualify for the European competition. 

Bizarrely, in the 1987/88 cup run, Jong Ajax progressed to the quarter-finals, as the first team lost in the second round. Ajax then decided to assign its best players to Jong Ajax for their next game, but they still lost against the second division team. Today, Ajax can still send their players to Jong Ajax freely, but only if they played 15 or fewer games for the team.

1. Real Madrid Castilla 

Real Madrid Castilla was only a goal away from the next European round

Real Madrid had a B team since 1952 when they took over the local amateurs, AD Plus Ultra. However, when the team folded in 1972, Real created Castilla CF as its substitute. With so many talented players at its disposal, the team managed consecutive promotions in 1977 and 1978, reaching the La Liga 2. For the next two decades, Castilla CF proved to be one of the strongest teams in the league, even winning it in 1984. Four years later, they came third, occupying the play-off spot. However, as a reserve team, they couldn't be promoted.

Apart from outstanding league performance, Real Madrid Castilla had some terrific cup results, as they had four deep runs. Three times they reached the quarter-finals, but in 1980 they qualified for the final match against their parent team, losing 6-1. However, as Real Madrid also won the title, Castilla qualified for the Cup Winners' Cup! This makes them the only reserve team ever to play in the official European competition. Hence, that is another reason why they deserve a first place on our list. Unfortunately, their opening opponent was West Ham, as one of the best teams in the competition. Still, Madrilenian took them to overtime in the second game before succumbing.

As reserve teams are now banned from playing the cup competitions in all major leagues, this makes them even more obscure. Yet, as we can see, some still top the league table while producing world-class players. However, many countries, including England, aren't allowing B teams to compete even in the lowest leagues. Still, we thought these teams should be honored with our top ten list, as their successes are more than worthy of mentioning.

Are you surprised that so many reserve teams managed to have an excellent cup run? Do you think reserve teams should be allowed to compete in the national leagues and cups, or should they stay in the separate competition?

Photo: Max Titov/Unsplash



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Sloggy Says:

The story about that Polish club sounds unreal

July 05 at 06:55:22 PM

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