Within Spain’s youth league system is the División de Honor Juvenil, which is the top division. The champions and the best runner-up of this division qualify for the Champions Cup, the main youth football club tournament in this country, which is played every year in order to proclaim the best youth team in Spain. The División de Honor Juvenil, like the Champions Cup, is organised by the Royal Spanish Football Federation.
This division emerged in the 1990/1991 season, but did so as the second tier of youth football in Spain. In the 1995/1996 season was when it became the first youth category, being its status since then.
The División de Honor is made up of seven territorial groups, which are formed according to the proximity of the teams or their ease of travel in order to avoid high costs at training age. This has been the case since the 2006/2007 season.
The Royal Spanish Football Federation establishes in the regulations that only those players who turn seventeen from the first of January in the season to be played are entitled to a youth footballer’s licence, which they will keep until the end of the season in which they turn nineteen.
Honorary Division competition system
- A total of one hundred and fourteen teams participate in the División de Honor, which are divided into seven groups, six of which are made up of sixteen teams each and another one made up of eighteen teams. The distribution of groups is carried out according to a series of criteria of geographical proximity, and is currently as follows:
- Group I: Galicia, Cantabria and Asturias.
- Group II: Navarre, La Rioja, Basque Country and Aragon.
- Group III: Catalonia, Balearic Islands and Aragon.
- Group IV: Melilla, Ceuta and Andalusia.
- Group V: Extremadura, Community of Madrid and Castilla y León.
- Group VI: Canary Islands.
- Group VII: Region of Murcia, Community of Valencia, Community of Madrid and Castile-La Mancha.
The Honorary Division is played every year, starting at the beginning of September and ending in April of the following year. The teams in each group play each other in a league system, i.e. they play each other twice a season, with the winner of a match getting three points, the loser getting none and in the event of a draw both teams get one point.
The team in each group with the most points at the end of the season is the league champion, thereby qualifying for a final phase known as the División de Honor Juvenil Champions Cup, which is also won by the runner-up with the most points from all the groups. It is worth mentioning that the champions and runners-up of each group, as well as the teams in third place with the most points, also play in the Copa del Rey at the end of the season.
On the other hand, the teams in the last four places in each group are automatically relegated to the National Youth League at the end of the season. In the following season, the teams that have won promotion in this category will play in their place.
History of the Honorary Division
The Liga de Honor U-19 or Superliga Juvenil, the highest category of youth football, underwent a restructuring during the 1990/1991 season, when the Royal Spanish Football Federation added the División de Honor as a second category, which was composed of six territorial groups, thus joining the already existing Liga de Honor and Liga Nacional.
Each new season of the Liga de Honor U-19 involved high financial demands, so that in the mid-1990s some of the main clubs participating in it, such as Real Club Deportivo Español and Real Madrid, were forced to withdraw from it. In view of these developments, the Royal Spanish Football Federation had no choice but to carry out a major restructuring during the 1995/1996 season and eliminated the U-19 League. Thus, the Division of Honour, which until then had been the second tier, became the top tier.
As the division was divided into six groups, it was decided that the champions of each group would play each other in a final phase called the Champions Cup with the aim of proclaiming the national champion. This phase would take place on neutral ground.
From the 2006/2007 season onwards, the number of groups increased from six to seven, as a single group was created for teams from the Valencian Community. Therefore, the number of participants in the Champions Cup was also increased to seven. However, in 2011 the Division of Honour was restructured again and became home to one more participant, i.e. a total of eight teams. The eighth team to play in the Champions Cup would be the runner-up of the Division of Honour with the most points. From that moment on, the league system that had been in place prior to that year was replaced by a direct knockout system.