Small caps have been falling behind this year: As of mid-November, the Russell 2000 is up 1.21% for 2014, while the S&P 500 is up 10.30%.

Despite the sector's underperformance this year, however, your clients may still want to consider U.S. small-cap funds over the long term. Historically, small caps tend to outperform large caps over five-year periods.

Indeed, in the last five years, the Russell has returned 102.21% while the S&P has returned 86.79%.

While some analysts now say small caps have outperformed and will endure a prolonged pullback, current market conditions give such funds unusually good opportunities, argues Richard Shuster, portfolio manager of the Robeco WPG Small/Micro-Cap Value fund. "I think we've seen a lot of bifurcation in the stock market," he says. "These bifurcations get magnified in small and micro-cap stocks."

Bear in mind, however, that while some actively managed small-cap funds may outperform the Russell, many underperform -- and charge a management fee far higher than a low-cost ETF.

Here are the five top-performing U.S. small cap funds as of Nov. 11, by five-year performance, according to Morningstar. Click through the list here

 

5. Olstein Strategic Opportunities A

YTD: 8.78%

5Y: 18.46%

Total Fund Assets: $131.6M

 

4. Wasatch Small Cap Value

YTD: 8.85%

5Y: 17.00%

Total Fund Assets: $290.6M

 

3. Lazard US Small-Mid Cap Equity Instl

YTD: 9.63%

5Y: 15.47%

Total Fund Assets: $289.1M

 

2. Invesco Select Companies A

YTD: 10.09%

5Y: 17.94%

Total Fund Assets: $1.4B

 

1. Hennessy Cornerstone Growth Investor

YTD: 10.35%

5Y: 15.17%          

Total Fund Assets: $261.7M

 

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