Maritsa (Bulgarian: Марица) is a Bulgarian association football club based in Plovdiv, that plays in the Second League, the second level of Bulgarian football league system.
It was established in 1921, after the merger of the teams Vampir and Trite Konski Sili. The club plays its home games at Maritsa Stadium, located in the city's northern district. The team's biggest success is playing in Bulgaria's top division four times, in 1967–68, 1969–70, 1970–71 and 1996-97. They have also reached the semifinals of the Bulgarian Cup once, in 1996–97.
The team is named Maritsa after the river of the same name, which flows past Plovdiv.
FC Maritsa was founded on 20 September 1921, after the Union of three smaller teams. The team, up until 1967, competed in either the second or third divisions of Bulgarian football, usually in the shadows of the much more popular and successful other teams from Plovdiv, namely Botev, Lokomotiv, and Spartak.
First Tastes of Top Football
1967 is arguably one of the most important years in the club’s history, because that is when Maritsa managed to promote to the A Group for the first time ever. Maritsa's first season in the elite was largely unsuccessful. The team finished last (16th), with only 6 wins, 5 draws, and 19 losses. This earned them only 17 points, which was eight points below the safety zone, thus resulting in relegation after a single season.
Maritsa, however, did not have to wait long for their second season in the top level. This came just two seasons after their relegation, for season 1969–70. This time Maritsa managed to win 10 games and draw 3 times, earning them 23 points. This was enough for the team to ensure safety from relegation, as Minyor Pernik and Beroe were relegated instead. Maritsa's third season in the elite was less successful, however. The team finished last, with only 4 wins and a total of 17 losses, only earning them 17 points, ending in relegation once more. This ended Maritsa's two year spell in the elite category.
Lower Leagues and Return Among the Best
Between 1971 and 1996, Maritsa bounced between the second and third tiers of Bulgarian football. This changed in 1996, when Maritsa promoted back to the A PFG after a 25-year absence from the top level of football. Their return proved to be difficult. The team fought bravely against relegation, however that was not enough, as the team placed 14th, three points behind Etar, thus were relegated again.
Second and Third Levels
Since then, Maritsa have largely played in the lower categories of Bulgarian football, mainly in the third level, with occasional appearances in the second tier.
The club is particularly famous for its renowned youth program that has produced many Bulgarian talents over the years – Hristo Stoichkov, Dinko Dermendzhiev, Aleksandar Aleksandrov. Bulgarian national first-team players Georgi Georgiev, Kostadin Vidolov, Krassimir Chomakov, Valeri Domovchiyski, Yordan Todorov, Asen Nikolov had also came through the ranks at Maritsa.
2017–present: Return to professional football
In 2016–17 Third League season Maritsa Plovdiv finished second in their regional division, but gained promotion, because the first ranked team – FC Zagorets declined the offer to participate in the Second Professional League. On 16 June 2017 the club signed a contract with Botev Plovdiv for collaboration. Botev sent 5 players on loan and allowed Maritsa to play their home games on their training base, the Botev 1912 Football Complex, until Maritsa Stadium is altered for professional matches. Maritsa was, however, relegated back to the third tier after only one season in the second league.
This page also has a version in other languages: Марица (русский)