The Bulgarian volleyball Federation has decided to allow players who played in foreign leagues this season to come home and play with their home clubs in the Cup of Bulgaria, they announced in March. The tournament, from May 1st-5th, where each of the country’s professional clubs plays against one another to crown a champion of the country. Each team is allowed to have up to 4 foreigners on their roster, with no more than 3 in play at once, but no limit has been placed upon the number of home-grown, but internationally-transferred, players who can participate.
VK Maritsa is the heavy favorite with 14 wins in 14 games. Their 42 points is 55% more than the next-closest team (VK Rakovski – Dimitrovgrad) has with 27. Maritsa has only given up a single set in 42 played this season, scoring 1,076 to their opponents 603 (an average score of 25-14). The next-best league differential is 151 by 3rd-place VK Kazanlak.
The balance of power could change drastically, however, when international players return home. For example, from Bulgaria’s 2014 Women’s World Championship 11th-place finishing team, not a single player was signed to a Bulgarian club in 2015. Instead, most of their players are spread out across the continent in leagues with higher wages than the home Bulgarian league.
Star outside hitter Elitsa Vasileva, for example,hasn’t played in the Bulgarian leak since she was 17. She’s currently playing with Dinamo Kazan of Russia, who took bronze in the 2015 CEV Champions League and won the 2016 Russian Cup. As a teenager, she played for CSKA Sofia, who currently are 4th in the Bulgarian league but will receive a huge boost in their firepower if she returns. Another star of the National Team and their leading hitter at last year’s Grand Prix, Emiliya Nikolova, is playing with the NEC Red Rockets in Japan, and could theoretically return to 6th-place VK Levski, who are just 5-9 this season.