JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Professional soccer is returning to Northeast Florida.
The USL, the second tier of professional soccer in the United States, has granted an expansion franchise for men’s and women’s professional soccer to an ownership group based in Jacksonville. The announcement was made Tuesday at TPC Sawgrass.
The teams will begin playing in the 2025 season and the leadership of the club intends to build its own 15,000-seat stadium and training facility. Club leadership has identified several potential locations for the stadium.
The ownership group also features former Nease and University of Florida great Tim Tebow, Steve Livingstone, the original team president for the Armada, and local community innovator Tony Allegretti.
Team names have yet to be determined.
The First Coast has not had a professional soccer team since the Jacksonville Armada transitioned to a team made up of all college-aged players in the NPSL. Prior to joining the NPSL, the Armada competed in the NASL, then the second-division league. But the NASL ceased operations in 2018, forcing the Armada to seek a new league.
This new USL franchise is not affiliated with the Armada but does have an alignment with Florida Elite Soccer Academy, headquartered in St. Johns County.
The USL currently features 27 teams across the country including the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Miami FC, both of whom competed in the NASL at one time.
Most of the teams in USL Championship play in stadiums with a capacity of 5,000-15,000 seats. The notable exception is the Birmingham Legion, which plays its games at the 47,000-seat Legion Field, once the home of the annual Alabama-Auburn game.
The lead investor in the ownership group is Ricky Caplin, a local entrepreneur and CEO of the HCI Group, a health care technology group, and the CEO of Healthcare and Life Sciences for Tech Mahindra, the parent company of HCI Group.
This would mark the first time professional women’s soccer called Jacksonville home, although the US Women’s National Team has played to some big crowds in Jacksonville in the past, including over 18,000 at a match in 2013 and over 12,000 in 2019.