Ukrainian soccer teams have proven to be a major forces on the European continent since the 2000s led by Dynamo Kyiv and Shakhtar Donetsk.
The duo have singlehandedly challenged the rest of Europe with homegrown with a mixed blend of South American players.
The soccer scene in the country is quite different as it currently appears to be a two-horse race.
Who are the biggest football clubs in Ukraine? Shakhtar Donetsk and Dynamo Kyiv are the two biggest football teams in Ukraine collectively sharing the Premier League, Cup and Super Cup since 1993.
Although the inaugural season began with high profile teams like Chornomorets Odesa, Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, Metalurh Zaporizhya and Metalist Kharkiv, Shakhtar Donetsk and Dynamo Kyiv have continued to dominate.
Except for the 1992 league season which Tavriya Simferopol won, the preceding seasons to date have been shared between Dynamo Kyiv and Shakhtar Donetsk.
But how did these two clubs dominate Ukrainian soccer all these years?
After the disbandment of the Soviet League just after independence, the new Ukrainian Championship was formed.
The new development forced other teams from the country competing in Soviet competitions to withdraw.
For Dynamo and their rivals, it was more like a continuation from where they stopped in the Soviet League.
At the time, the two clubs along with FC Chornomorets Odesa, FC Dnipro and Metalist Kharkiv were some of the biggest soccer teams in the Soviet League from the Ukrainian axis.
The level of competition in the league had already forced the two clubs to develop on existing infrastructure and players.
With the disbandment of the Soviet League already made known, it was time for Shakhtar Donetsk and Dynamo Kyiv to return to the home scene for a new national competition.
Coupled with existing infrastructure and already established tradition, it was just a matter of time for these two clubs to lead the new era in new.
The creation of the Ukrainian Premier League gave room for the likes of Dynamo Kyiv and Shakhtar Donetsk to compete favourably even though Dinamo Kyiv was one of the most successful teams in the Soviet League.
The Soviet League which had big sides like Spartak Moscow, CSKA Moscow, Dinamo Moscow, was a bit challenging for the rest of the teams from the Ukrainian axis to compete except Dinamo Kyiv.
As of 2021, Tavriya Simferopol was the only club outside Shakhtar and Dynamo Kyiv with one league title in the inaugural edition in 1992.
The competitiveness of the two teams have made them untouchable and unchallenged to date even though other clubs have shown promising signs lately.
Shakhtar Donetsk and Dynamo Kyiv built European standard youth soccer development academies to nurture young players.
Most young players in the country would prefer to join the Academy of these big name and this may not be unconnected with the fact that they’ll could be handed an opportunity in the main team.
This move was behind the success of the two clubs even though they’ve resulted in the signing of Brazilians and other South American players.
Today, the fulcrum of the Ukrainian football national team is made up of players most from Dynamo Kyiv, Shakhtar Donetsk and other Premier League teams.
These days, Ukrainian players play in some of the top leagues like the Premier League, Bundesliga, Série A, Primeira Liga Portugal, etc.
Ranking the best Ukrainian soccer teams, most successful and greatest
1. Dinamo Kyiv
The powerhouse of Ukrainian soccer from the days of the Soviet League to date, Dinamo Kyiv have remained a dominant force throughout the history of football in the country.
Lifting over 12 Soviet League, Dinamo Kyiv were at their best form, becoming Ukraine’s best performers during the Soviet era.
Playing at 70,050 capacity NSC Olimpiyskiy stadium, the club draws one of the largest crowds in the country.
The appointment of Valeriy Lobanovskyi in 1974 as head coach of the club was the highest in the club’s history.
The Ukrainian coach brought 12 league titles, 8 domestic cups, 2 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cups, 1 UEFA Supercup which currently stands as the club’s most successful period.
Valeriy Lobanovskyi left behind a legacy that would never be forgotten throughout the history of Kyiv based club.
In the 1992–93 season Tavriya Simferopol had won the inaugural season in the newly created Ukrainian Premier League which was known as Higher League (Vyshcha Liha).
Dynamo Kyiv went on to claim nine successive league titles which was ended by the emergence of Shakhtar Donetsk following a major shakeup at the club in 2001.
Trophies and Achievements
Domestic – Soviet era
The club claimed 13 Soviet League, 9 Soviet national cup competitions, and two UEFA Cup Winners’ Cups becoming one of the two Soviet clubs to win the competition.
Ukraine Premier League
Dynamo Kyiv is the record winner of the Ukrainian Premier League with sixteen titles including nine successive league titles.
Dynamo Kyiv dominated the newly created Ukrainian Premier League before Shakhtar Donetsk emergence in the early 2000s which created a strong rivalry and competition in domestic scene.
Dynamo is a thirteen-time winner of the Ukrainian Cup.
Ukrainian Super Cup
The country’s curtain-raiser for every new season, Dynamo Kyiv is nine-time winner of the Super Cup played against Shakhtar Donetsk in most cases.
Dynamo Kyiv is one of the two teams in the Soviet era to win European silverware. The club won two UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in 1974–75, and 1985–86.
The UEFA Super Cup was lifted in 1975 in the same year the club won its first European football silverware.
Ukrainian derby (Klasychne derby) – Classico
This is the biggest football derby in Ukraine to date.
The derby is a match between the two top Ukrainian clubs Dynamo Kyiv and Shakhtar Donetsk.
The rivalry was eventually overshadowed after a tense rivalry between Dinamo Kyiv and Spartak Moscow emerged during the Soviet era.
However, since the establishment of the Ukrainian Premier League in 1992, the rivalry was re-established and is currently the focal point of each soccer season in the country.
Dynamo Kyiv vs Karpaty Lviv (friendly)
Dynamo Kyiv vs Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk – (Braty to zero; Band of Brothers – now defunct)
2. Shakhtar Donetsk
Football Club Shakhtar Donetsk is one of the two strongest forces in Ukrainian soccer to date.
The Donetsk based club is currently the only Ukrainian soccer team since the country’s independence to win a major European trophy.
In 2009, the club lifted the UEFA Cup with top players like Jádson and Luiz Adriano providing the goals.
Shakhtar Donetsk is one of the most popular football clubs in the country alongside Dynamo Kyiv.
Shakhtar Donetsk only became Champions of the newly created Ukrainian Premier League ten years after in 2001.
Since then, the Premier League has been collectively shared between Dynamo Kyiv and Shakhtar Donetsk.
The Miners have won thirteen titles even though they previously won four titles in the Soviet League.
Top players like Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Alex Teixeira, and Darijo Srna have represented the club.
Trophies and Achievements
Ukrainian Premier League
Shakhtar Donetsk has won thirteen titles compared to Dinamo Kyiv who’s currently the most successful team in the division with sixteen titles.
The club’s first title was in the 2001–02 season.
Shakhtar Donetsk is joint-most successful in the domestic cup with Dynamo Kyiv on thirteen titles respectively.
Ukrainian Super Cup
The Miners are also joint-most successful in the Super Cup with rivals Dynamo Kyiv on nine titles respectively.
After Ukrainian independence, Shakhtar Donetsk became the first team to record a European silverware after it won the UEFA Cup in 2009.
Shakhtar Donetsk vs Dinamo Kyiv
This is the biggest rivalry in Ukrainian soccer to date.
Donbas Derby – Zorya Luhansk vs Shakhtar Donetsk
Miners vs. Sailors – Shakhtar Donetsk vs Chornomorets Odessa
3. FC Chornomorets Odesa
FC Chornomorets Odesa is a Ukrainian professional football club based in Odesa, that competes in the Ukrainian Premier League.
Chornomorets is the next big side in the country outside the two dominant forces.
The Odesa based club have won two Ukrainian Cup titles.
4. FC Vorskla Poltava
FC Vorskla Poltava based in Poltava is a Ukrainian professional soccer club that competes in the Ukrainian Premier League.
In the 1996–97 league season, the club finished third on the final standings.
In 2008–09, Vorskla Poltava won the Ukrainian Cup following a surprise 1-0 win over giants Shakhtar Donetsk in the final.
5. FC Zorya Luhansk
FC Zorya Luhansk is a Ukrainian professional football club based in Luhansk that competes in the Premier League.
The club won the Soviet League once in 1972.
In the Ukrainian Cup, Zorya Luhansk were runners-up in 2015–16, 2020–21.
Zorya Luhansk is currently one of the most promising teams in the country outside Shakhtar Donetsk and Dynamo Kyiv.
The club have also represented the country in European competitions like the UEFA Europa League and UEFA Conference League.
FC Dnipro (now defunct)
Football Club Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk was a professional football club based in Dnipro.
The club was forced into bankruptcy following the FIFA ruling based on multiple legal claims for failing honour the payment promised to players and managers.
Dnipro was the second most successful Ukrainian soccer team during the Soviet era with two Soviet Top Leagues and one Soviet Cup.
In the Ukrainian Premier League, the club finished runners up twice in 1992–93 and 2013–14.
The club also finished runners up in the Ukrainian Cup three times in 1994–95, 1996–97 and 2003–04.
The Dnipropetrovsk’s highest European performance was in the 2014–15 season when the club lost in the UEFA Europa League final against Spanish side Sevilla.
Ukrainian soccer teams are some of the top performers on the european continent.
At the regional level, Dynamo Kyiv and Shakhtar Donetsk are two of the best football clubs in Eastern Europe with unique history behind them.
Since 2010, Ukrainian soccer teams have held on to two spots on the UEFA club coefficient and have consistently fielded two teams in the group stages of the Champions League, Europa League and recently Conference League.
Football is the most popular sport in Ukrainian since the Soviet era to date.
Dynamo Kyiv remains the most successful Ukrainian soccer team from the Soviet era to date.
Top soccer competitions
Ukrainian Premier League
The Ukrainian Premier League is the top tier professional soccer league contested by 16 teams.
The competition was initially referred to as the Ukrainian Football Championship replaced by the Premier League in 2008.
Dynamo Kyiv is the most successful team having won sixteen titles closely followed by Shakhtar Donetsk with thirteen titles.
The two sides are the most successful in the division.
Ukrainian First League
The First League is the second tier professional soccer league contested by 16 teams.
Ukrainian Second League
The Second League is the third tier professional soccer league contested by 26 teams.
Ukrainian Amateur Football League
The Amateur League is the fourth tier national soccer league of Ukraine. The league consist of lowly ranked teams in the country’s football ranking system.
The Ukrainian Cup is a primary national soccer knockout cup competition played by every member of the Ukrainian Professional Football League.
It was established in 1992 Dynamo Kyiv and Shakhtar Donetsk tied on the same number of 13 titles respectively.
They’re are the two most successful teams in the competition.
Ukrainian Super Cup
The Super Cup is contested between winners of the Ukrainian Premier League and the Ukrainian Cup.
The Super Cup is the curtain-raiser for every new football season in the country.
The Ukrainian Association of Football governs football-related activities in the country.
When it comes to national team competition, the Ukrainian Football National Team nicknamed Zbirna represents the country in European and international soccer competitions.
Honoured teams in Ukraine
The mark of honour given to clubs in Ukraine is a result of their performance.
To show respect for a respective team, a golden star is placed above the team’s badge to indicate 10 league titles.
Dynamo Kyiv, Dnipro and Zorya Luhansk collectively won sixteen Soviet football honours.
- Dynamo Kyiv **
- Shakhtar Donetsk *
- Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk (defunct)
- Zorya Luhansk
Teams from the country participate in major European football competitions since the formation of the new league in 1992.
The number of teams in European competition had increased since 2008 after Shakhtar Donetsk won the UEFA Cup.
- UEFA Champions League
- UEFA Europa League
- UEFA Europa Conference League
- UEFA Super Cup
- FIFA Club World Cup
Ukrainian soccer teams are some of the strongest forces in Europe.