Founded in 1939, it currently plays in the Primeira Liga, Portugal's top-tier division of professional football. It plays its home games at Estádio do Rio Ave FC, also known as Estádio dos Arcos. Built in 1985, "Estádio do Rio Ave FC" seats approximately 12,815 people and is a multi-sports venue, although it is used mainly for Rio Ave's football matches.
Rio Ave was founded in 1939, soon being nicknamed Rio Grande (Big River). In 1981–82, Rio Ave achieved its best ever league standing by finishing in fifth place, in what was then known as the Primeria Divisao (First Division). Two seasons later, it reached the Portuguese Cup final, losing to league powerhouse F.C. Porto 4-1. Most recently, Rio Ave managed to see of S.C. Braga to gain a spot in the 2014 Taça de Portugal Final, where they will face S.L. Benfica. Having just missed out on European Qualification in their record 1981-1982 league finish, Rio Ave have now acquired a guaranteed spot in the 2014-2015 UEFA Europa League, as Benfica have already qualified for the 2014-2015 UEFA Champions League through winning the 2013-2014 Primeira Liga. Their participation in the 2014-2015 edition of the Europa League will mark the first time Rio Ave have ever competed in a major European football tournament.
After spending the first part of the 1990s in the second level, the club returned to the top flight, going on to conquer the 1999 and 2003 second division. They would be relegated again in 2005-2006, returning to top-tier football in 2008–09.