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Alessandria aim to join cup hall of fame

Third-tier Alessandria take on AC Milan in the Coppa Italia semi-finals having already made history. UEFA.com looks at the select company of clubs across Europe they have joined.

Grey of Alessandria outdid pink of Palermo in the Coppa Italia
Grey of Alessandria outdid pink of Palermo in the Coppa Italia ©Getty Images

Alessandria are just a tie against AC Milan away from being the first third-tier side ever to reach the Coppa Italia final and joining a very select band of clubs in Europe to achieve such a feat.

One of 36 teams from outside the top two divisions to enter Italy's premier knockout competition, Alessandria's campaign began on 2 August with a 2-0 home defeat of Serie D team Altovicentino. In the following fortnight they overcame Pro Vercelli of Serie B and Juve Stabia before their December elimination of top-flight pair Palermo and Genoa. They then beat Spezia in the last eight.

On Tuesday they will welcome Milan to Torino's Stadio Olimpico for the first leg of a tie Alessandria hope will take them to the namesake stadium in Rome for the final. It was in the decider that they lost, coincidentally, to Torino in 1935/36 after beating Milan 1-0 in a one-off home semi.

While Alessandria have fallen from their past status when they produced Gianni Rivera before his 1960 move to Milan, their incredible run this season puts the Grigi (the Greys, after their distinctive shirt colour), in the company of a small number of teams from outside the top two national divisions to have had such impressive cup runs …

For these statistics, the Liechtenstein Cup and (until 1992) Welsh Cup are not counted due to lack of national league

  • Third-tier teams that have won main domestic (FA) cups
Pasching were in the third tier when they lifted the Austrian Cup
Pasching were in the third tier when they lifted the Austrian Cup©GEPA

Austria: Pasching (2012/13) – went on to compete in play-offs of 2013/14 UEFA Europa League having been promoted to second tier.

England: Tottenham Hotspur (1900/01) – Spurs were only side from outside the English Football League after its formation in 1888 to win the FA Cup. They played in the Southern League below the two-division national league, though there was no promotion and relegation.

Luxembourg: Jeunesse Hautcharage (1970/71) – went on to play in first round of 1971/72 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup (losing by record 21-0 aggregate scoreline to Chelsea) having been promoted to second tier. Club now known as Käerjéng after 1997 merger.

Netherlands: RCH (1917/18), CVV (1919/20), Schoten (1920/21) – the losing side in all three finals were from the second level regional leagues. No top-level teams reached the Dutch Cup final from 1916/17 until 1924/25 (not held in 1918/19 or from 1921 to 1924), though not every top club entered.

Poland: Lechia Gdańsk (1982/83) – went on to play in first round of 1983/84 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, losing to eventual winners Juventus, having been promoted to second tier.

Sweden: Råå (1948) – Råå beat Kenty 6-0 in the only domestic cup final in European history to feature two third-tier clubs. No teams from outside the top two divisions have reached any other Swedish Cup final.

  • Third-tier sides to qualify for Europe as beaten cup finalists

European Cup Winners' Cup:
Germany: Stahl Eisenhüttenstadt (1991/92) – first round, had reached last East German Cup final in 1990/91 as a top-flight club but were transferred to the unified German third level for the following season.
France: Nîmes Olympique (1996/97)  second round after knocking out Honvéd

UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League:
Portugal: Leixões SC (2002/03) – first round after knocking out Belasica
Lithuania: FBK Kaunas (2009/10) – second qualifying round
Estonia: Santos Tartu (2014/15)  first qualifying round

  • Other selected feats in cup competitions that led to European qualification
Randers have a unique cup record
Randers have a unique cup record©Getty Images

Denmark: Randers were the only second-tier team to win consecutive cup finals across Europe with their victories in 1966/67 and 1967/68. They repeated the feat in 2005/06, the only team across Europe to win three cups (or indeed two) from outside a top division.

FA Cup:
While several second-level teams have won the cup, most recently West Ham United in 1979/80, the furthest a third-tier team has got since the Football League expanded in 1920/21 is the semi-finals, most recently Wycombe Wanderers in 2000/01. York City (1954/55), Norwich City (1958/59) and Chesterfield (1996/97) all earned semi-final replays.
League Cup: Two third-tier teams have won the trophy, Swindon Town in 1966/67 and Queens Park Rangers in 1968/69. Fourth-level Bradford City reached the 2012/13 final, as did Rochdale in the second edition, in 1961/62, when not all top teams entered.

Quevilly went on a memorable run in 2011/12
Quevilly went on a memorable run in 2011/12©Getty Images

Coupe de France: Fourth-tier amateurs Calais reached the 1999/2000 final, leading Nantes at half-time before losing 2-1 to a 90th-minute penalty. Most recently, Quevilly, in 2011/12, reached the final from the third level. Nîmes did likewise, in 1995/96, to qualify for Europe as they lost to double-winners Auxerre. Only two second-tier sides have won the cup, Guingamp in 2008/09 and Le Havre exactly 50 years earlier.
League Cup: Gueugnon
in 1999/2000 were the only non-Ligue 1 team to win the trophy (other than Reims in 1990/91 when only Ligue 2 clubs were eligible).

Germany: Three third-tier sides have reached the final, Hertha Berlin reserves (1992/93), Energie Cottbus (1996/97) and Union Berlin (2000/01). Hannover won the first unified German Cup in 1991/92, still the only non-Bundesliga team to do so, though Offenbach Kickers (1969/70) did so in the former West Germany.

Italy: No team from outside the top two divisions has reached the final, with Napoli the only non-Serie A winners, in 1961/62, and Ancona the last Serie B finalists, in 1993/94. Alessandria are the first team from the third tier to reach the last four since Bari in 1983/84 (when the holders, eventual Serie A champions and European Cup Winners' Cup winners Juventus, were among their victims).

Eschen/Mauren were the last team to dethrone Vaduz in Liechtenstein
Eschen/Mauren were the last team to dethrone Vaduz in Liechtenstein©UEFA.com

Liechtenstein: The only UEFA member association without a national league, Liechtenstein's clubs compete in Swiss league football but come together for a national cup which since 1992/93 has carried European qualification. While Vaduz, regulars in the top two Swiss divisions, have dominated, they were most recently dethroned by Eschen/Mauren of the Swiss fourth tier, in 2011/12.

Netherlands: Since the Eredivisie was started in 1956/57, no team from outside the top flight has won the Dutch Cup, with only eight second divisions teams reaching the final, most recently NEC Nijmegen in 1993/94.

Poland: Ruch II Chorzów (the Ruch Chorzów reserve team) reached the 1992/93 cup final from the fifth tier, the lowest-ranked team to achieve such a feat across Europe, and lost only on penalties to GKS Katowice.

Portugal: Leixões, in 2001/02, became the first third-tier team to reach the Portuguese Cup final; top-flight teams have won every edition.

Russia: Since the end of the Soviet Union, Terek Grozny, in 2003/04, are the only second division Russian Cup winners.

Scotland: Third-level Gretna reached the 2005/06 cup final, losing on penalties to Hearts. East Fife, in 1937/39, are the sole non-top-flight winners, other than amateurs Queen's Park in 1892/93, who did not compete in the league but were recognised as one of Scotland's strongest clubs.

Real Madrid's reserve team Castilla faced West Ham in Europe after losing the cup final
Real Madrid's reserve team Castilla faced West Ham in Europe after losing the cup final©Getty Images

Spain: Three second-tier teams have been beaten finalists – Real Betis (1931), Sabadell (1935) and Real Madrid Castilla (1979/80, losing 6-1 to Real Madrid). Three third-tier sides have reached the semi-finals, Deportivo Logroño (1931), Figueres (2001/02), and Mirandés (2011/12).

Turkey: Ankaragücü are the only non-top-flight club to reach the final and beat Boluspor 2-1 on aggregate to lift the trophy in 1980/81.

Ukraine: While no teams from outside the top division have reached a post-independence cup final, Kaparty Lviv in 1969 were the only non-Supreme League club from any republic to win the Soviet Union Cup.

Wales: Until the formation of the national League of Wales in 1992/93, the Welsh Cup (which led to the European Cup Winners' Cup) was usually won by Wales-based teams competing in lower English divisions. In 1986/87, Merthyr Tydfil, from the seventh level of English football, won the Welsh Cup. They then became the lowest-ranked team to play in Europe, losing in the Cup Winners' Cup first round to Serie B team Atalanta (who reached the semi-finals, a record for a non-top-flight club that equalled the run of Welsh side Cardiff City in 1967/68). Two Welsh teams, Wrexham in 1975/76 and Newport County in 1980/81, reached the Cup Winners' Cup quarter-finals from the English third division.