Armada owner says team could play in different league in 2018

NASL sanctioning keeps future uncertain

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Armada owner Robert Palmer said that while he is still committed to the team, the club is having conversations with other leagues about the possibility that Jacksonville could play in a league other than the North American Soccer League, where the team has played the first three seasons of its existence.

"There are a lot of great opportunities for the Armada," Palmer said. "There are a lot of lesser known leagues in this country."

One aspect of a potential move to another league could include moving to a promotion/relegation system that exists in most leagues in the world, but not in the United States.

Earlier Monday, the NASL announced that they would become the first U.S. professional soccer league to operate on the same calendar that most of the leagues globally do. The league will kickoff Aug. 11, 2018, and conclude its season on June 1, 2019. 

Palmer also restated his commitment to building a soccer specific stadium, although for the time being, the Armada will continue to play at UNF's Hodges Stadium.

"I want to reassure our fans, our staff, the team of my commitment to this team," Palmer said. "Unless the NASL wins the injunction, the Armada will not be playing in Division II. If the NASL wins the injunction and the other owners are all willing to put teams on the field, we will be a part of that."

The NASL is currently embroiled in a lawsuit with the United States Soccer Federation which ruled that the league had not achieved the necessary milestones to retain their Division II status. The NASL is charging USSF with antitrust behavior. 

The league has been losing teams over the past two seasons. Last year, the Ottawa Fury and Tampa Bay Rowdies joined the United Soccer League, a league that operated as a Division II league for the first time last season. Rayo OKC ceased operations after one season last year and the 2017 NASL champions, the San Francisco Deltas suspended operations after winning the title. There is also a report that Indy Eleven, one of the best supported clubs in the league, is leaving for the USL. That would leave Miami FC, the New York Cosmos and Puerto Rico FC as the only teams remaining from the 2017 season. California United and 1904 FC, located in San Diego, were set to begin play in the league in 2018.

"We find ourselves in a difficult position due to the Federation's decision and the impact that decision has had on our players, fans and front office members is unfortunate," said NASL interim commissioner Rishi Sehgal. "That said, we believe the change to a fall-to-spring format will be very exciting for American soccer as it will better align the NASL with the best soccer in the world."

The league said that they will make "additional announcements in the coming weeks."

In addition to the USL, the National Independent Soccer Association, which is headed by former Indy Eleven and Chicago Fire president Peter Wilt, has announced plans for teams in Chattanooga, Connecticut and Miami. Clubs in Charlotte, Omaha, Milwaukee and St. Louis are also being considered.

According to the NISA website, "Additional active conversations about joining NISA are ongoing with 20 other markets. These include nine existing amateur teams, four existing professional teams and seven groups that do not yet have a team in any league."

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