Athletes Unlimited Volleyball – Everything You Need To Know

It’s exciting times for high level volleyball within the USA thanks to the Athletes Unlimited organization.

For the first time in a long time, we now have professional grade women’s volleyball on home soil in the US.

In this article I’ll look to answer all of your questions surrounding Athletes Unlimited Volleyball like how it works, who the players are, and how much they get paid!

What Is Athletes Unlimited Volleyball?

Athletes Unlimited Volleyball is the only current professional volleyball league within the United States.

It’s a women’s only volleyball league unlike anything you’ve ever seen before!

The entire structure of the competition is extremely unique and is designed to be more exciting for fans to follow.

How Does Athletes Unlimited Volleyball Work?

The season lasts 5 weeks and there are no fixed teams.

Huh? How does that work?

Each week the top 4 players from that round become captains who select their own teams from the entire player pool of 44 athletes for the following round.

Think of it like real life fantasy volleyball!

How Does The Athletes Unlimited Volleyball Draft Work?

Each week the 4 athletes with the most ‘points’ from the previous round must take in turns to select players for that week’s team.

During the draft, each captain has 2 minutes to select their next player with whom they can discuss how they want to construct the remainder of their team.

The draft continues until all 44 players have been selected onto teams.

Athletes Unlimited Volleyball Teams

Athletes Unlimited Volleyball Girls

Each week the gold, orange, blue, and purple teams are assigned their captains who pick their players in the draft.

The captains are allowed to consult with other players, former coaches, and staff to help them choose their teams each week.

Athletes Unlimited Volleyball Rules

Normal volleyball rules apply to the AUV games.

Sets are played to 25 and teams must win by two points.

If the total score is tied after 3 sets, a 4th tie-breaker ‘golden set’ will be played which is first to 5 points (win by 2).

I’ll explain below how the score could possibly be tied after 3 sets…

Athletes Unlimited Volleyball Scoring

Athletes Unlimited Volleyball Scoring

The Athletes Unlimited volleyball scoring system is quite complex in nature.

It’s designed to reward individual performances within the broader context of the team’s overall performance.

There’s a 23 page whitepaper you can read here which provides a lot more detail on exactly how it works, but I’ll do my best to explain the basics below.

Individual Points

There are 2 types of points in the AUV system: individual and win points.

Individual points are awarded to players for things like service aces, kills, assists, digs, passes, and blocks.

Individual points are also deducted for errors in some of the above categories.

For instance, if you serve an ace you’ll be awarded 12 points but if you serve an error you’ll be deducted 8 points.

A full breakdown of the individual points system can be found here.

MVP Points

MVP points contribute to the ‘individual points’ category.

After each round, players as well as members of the Unlimited Club vote for 3 players who had stand out performances in each match.

The ‘Unlimited Club’ are just fans who pay a $20 subscription which is a really cool incentive to get spectators involved in the trajectory of the competition.

The top 3 players are awarded +60, +40, and +20 MVP points after each match which go directly towards the players’ individual points.

You can see how having an amazing individual game would earn you a ton of individual points!

Win Points

Win points or team points deal with the overall team performance.

Each set won is worth +40 win points and each match is good for +60 win points.

Matches Are Won Not By Sets But By Total Score

Although sets are played til 25, just as in normal volleyball, the match is decided by how many overall points you score.

For example, if the score in the first set is 26-24, second set is 25-23, and the third set is 19-25, even though the first team won the first 2 sets, the second team won the match as they have more total points (70-72).

In this case, the first team would get 2×40 win points for winning the first 2 sets, and the second team would get 1×40 win points for winning the third set + 60 win points for winning the match.

Total Points

Win points, MVP points, and individual points are combined an contribute to ‘total points’ which is the metric used to determine player rankings.

The highest percentage of points are attributed for team wins, so although you can earn plenty of individual points by playing really well, you’re incentivized to play well as a team to try and win as many games as possible.

Athletes Unlimited Volleyball Leaderboard

A leaderboard tracks all of these points so you can clearly see which players are performing better than others.

Click here to check out the Athletes Unlimited Volleyball Leaderboard.

Athletes Unlimited Volleyball Salary

Athletes Unlimited Volleyball Salary

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of Athletes Unlimited Volleyball is that it’s the only opportunity for USA volleyballers to get paid to play volleyball on home soil.

Not to mention the league actually pays quite well!

The base salary for Athletes Unlimited volleyball athletes is $10,000 for the 5 week season. Players also have the opportunity to earn substantially more in bonuses based on performance.

So far as professional volleyball salaries go, this is quite decent money especially considering the season is only 1 month long!

Athletes Unlimited Volleyball Salary Bonuses

The top players in the league will earn cash bonuses for topping the leaderboards with standout individual performances.

They’ll reportedly will earn closer to $35,000 for the season, although information about how these bonuses are distributed isn’t public.

Prior to each season, players have to select a charity of their choice, to which 50% of their bonus goes, which is a nice touch.

Is Athletes Unlimited Volleyball Considered Professional?

Absolutely.

Any sports league where players sign a contract to be paid a salary for playing is considered professional.

Yes, it’s very different to most traditional professional volleyball leagues throughout Europe, but it’s certainly still a pro league with a very high standard of play.

We’ll discuss more about the level of play shortly.

Athletes Unlimited Volleyball Roster

Prior to each season, approximately 44 players are selected to participate in the competition.

As you’ll now be aware, the team rosters change on a weekly basis based on the draft and will look similar to the following.

Athletes Unlimited Volleyball Roster

For more information on the current team rosters, be sure to check out the AUV website.

Who Are The Athletes Unlimited Volleyball Players?

The majority of Athletes Unlimited players are retired USA volleyballers who have ended their professional careers.

Having said that, these players are often exceptionally talented and have had many years of experience playing professionally in Europe.

Athletes Unlimited Volleyball Players

International players aren’t excluded from playing in the Athletes Unlimited league either…

International Superstar Volleyballers?

In 2021 we saw Thai superstar setter Nootsara Tomkom join the Athletes Unlimited volleyball league, adding to the pool of international talent playing AUV.

Nootsara Tomkom Athletes Unlimited

Bethania de la Cruz of the Dominican Republic also absolutely dominated the 2022 Athletes Unlimited season, scoring best outside hitter, MVP, best scorer, and best server awards.

Athletes Unlimited Volleyball Betty

It’s pretty incredible to see the league attracting such big names while still being so young!

USA’s own Jordan Larson topped the 2021 leaderboard who is also still ranked in the top 30 women’s volleyball players of all time.

How Many Players Are In Athletes Unlimited Volleyball?

There’s currently 44 players in the league with between 36 and 40 players participating each week.

Injuries and suspensions do occur from time to time, so it’s uncommon to see full rosters of 11 players.

How Do You Play Athletes Unlimited Volleyball?

So how exactly do the Athletes Unlimited players get picked to join the league?

AUV Will Affect NCAA Eligibility

The first thing you need to know is that this is a professional league which will void you from NCAA eligibility if you choose to play.

So if you’re aspiring to play college volleyball in the US, you should forget about Athletes Unlimited until after your college career.

Skill & Experience

Although it’s not one of the top women’s volleyball leagues in the world, the standard of play is still fairly high and the player pool is relatively small which means competition is quite stiff.

You have to be one of the top 44 players in the country who aren’t playing overseas on contract to participate, which means you need to be really good at volleyball!

If you’ve previously held a professional contract or played international level volleyball, you’re probably the sort of athlete who could think about playing Athletes Unlimited volleyball.

Similarly if you’ve previously played D1 NCAA volleyball and have upkept a high standard of play, you might just have what it takes!

Selection Process

The exact recruitment process for Athletes Unlimited Volleyball isn’t all that clear.

According to their website, the selection process is determined by Athletes Unlimited in conjunction with the Player Executive Committee.

If you’re interested in playing AUV, I recommend checking out this link to the AUV website to check to see when a 2023 season recruitment application form is posted.

Athletes Unlimited Volleyball Standard Of Play

Athletes Unlimited Volleyball De La Cruz

The skill level in the Athletes Unlimited volleyball league is surprisingly, or perhaps unsurprisingly, really solid.

While the roster is largely comprised of recently retired former professional volleyballers, the collective years of experience really shine through on the court.

The game plays much like some of the best D1 NCAA volleyball games do and it’s pretty high level stuff!

Athletes Unlimited Volleyball Highlights

So if you thought you’d be watching a bunch of geriatrics hobble around the court, you couldn’t be more wrong!

How Does The Structure Affect Play?

The draft/round robin system is definitely a challenging format for players.

Volleyball is a team sport and much of that relies on individual relationships between players being developed over time.

If you’re constantly changing teams every week, it will no doubt be difficult to build chemistry between players who are unfamiliar with one another.

Small things like the setter not knowing exactly where their attackers like to be set will be difficult to overcome in such a short period of time.

Having said that, it’s an exciting challenge for players to figure out how to respond to and I personally think the format is awesome!

Where Can I Watch Athletes Unlimited Volleyball?

There are 30 matches throughout the season, some of which are televised on CBS and RSNs and others are shown on the Athletes Unlimited digital platforms.

For viewers outside of the US or Canada, several matches each season are shown for free on Facebook and YouTube which is probably the easiest way to see highlights and full matches.

For the full schedule, be sure to check out the AUProSports website.

When Does The Athletes Unlimited Volleyball Season Start?

The Athletes Unlimited volleyball season usually starts around March and finishes a month later in April.

The 2022 season started on 17/03/22 and the final game was played on 17/04/22.

Where Are Athletes Unlimited Volleyball Games Played?

The Athletes Unlimited volleyball games are played at Fair Park in Dallas for a month around March/April each year.

If you’re in Dallas you’ll be able to buy tickets online and see the action up close and personal!

How Much Are Athletes Unlimited Volleyball Game Tickets?

Tickets for the Athletes Unlimited volleyball games are quite affordable at around $22 for general admission.

This is quite a small price to pay to see some of the best volleyballers in the country go at it against a few of the current top ranked players in the world!

Click here to purchase tickets.

What’s The Verdict?

Personally I’m super excited to see professional volleyball happening in the USA.

I’m a big fan of the structure of the league and it’s been an exciting first couple of seasons.

With some big sponsors getting involved in the volleyball league already, let’s hope for more talent, money, and longer seasons in future iterations of AUV!

About the author

As a former international level volleyball player, I now spend my days working out and writing for Volleyball Vault. I look for ways to bring my wealth of experience and knowledge to create unique and insightful perspectives in my content.