JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Although the new soccer team has yet to be named, its stadium site is still to be determined and the first matches won’t be played until 2025, JAX USL, the group bringing a USL Championship team to Jacksonville, is starting to build its front office.
On Tuesday, the group announced the hiring of former Jacksonville University men’s soccer coach Mauricio Ruiz to handle business development and the technical direction of the soccer side of the organization. He will also cultivate relationships between the club and youth and adult soccer clubs in the community.
As the first hire of the JAX USL ownership group, Ruiz will wear many hats in the immediate future.
“It’s a big responsibility, and I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the leadership group here,” Ruiz said. “To be able to see that my network and my influence within the community and the time spent here in Jacksonville has some value to building the organization (is big). It is a big project is a big endeavor, all the way from building facilities to naming a team and eventually forming a team.
“And then how do we unite the entire city together in a sport that does have that ability to do that. We can see it unite our city, different than many other sports across the world. So we’re excited to do that here. And the fact that I can be a small part of it or a big part of it, in whatever capacity we have to discover, it’s super humbling.”
Ruiz, who holds a U.S. Soccer Federation “A” license in coaching, led JU’s men’s soccer program from 2014-2022 and guided the program to the ASUN Conference Tournament title in 2021, which was the team’s first NCAA appearance since 2008. He joined the Dolphins after spending seven seasons at the University of Central Florida.
“We’re thrilled to have a person of Mauricio’s caliber and experience join JAXUSL,” JAXUSL President and CEO Steve Livingstone said in a statement. “Along with his extensive knowledge and experience in college soccer and player development, Mauricio is well known throughout the First Coast business and sporting community and a highly-respected leader throughout Florida’s soccer community as a coach, mentor and passionate ambassador for the game.”
Ruiz has started talking to potential sponsors and will be continuing to connect the club to the local youth soccer scene. He is also the first to join the club with technical soccer experience. The founding partners have business backgrounds.
“It ties in specifically with our youth development plans and with the pathway to pro,” said founding partner Tony Allegretti.
“No one has a better understanding of a pathway to pro by someone who is, you know, basically at the top of that level locally being a Division I head coach. So that’s great. But then also, the connections that he makes, from being in the sport for so long, we’ve got a lot of front office things that he’s already jumped in and helped us with. It’s amazing how sort of holistic his background is in the ability to talk to (everyone) from sponsors to players to coaches to league clubs, etc. Everyone knows Mauricio, and it’s no wonder that he’s really hitting the ground running.”
Ruiz earned a bachelor’s degree in management information systems from Stetson University in 2005 and a master’s degree in sports business from Jacksonville University in 2019. Born and raised in Sao Paulo, Brazil, he moved to the United States in 1996 with his parents and two sisters. Ruiz and his wife, Milena, reside in Jacksonville with their son, Maddox.
Together, they also founded World Sports United, a nonprofit organization that partners with missionary soccer academies in Central America. These academies use soccer to equip and support young people as a tool to share the love of God in their homes and communities, with the hope to create systematic impact for generations to come.
Ruiz also served as a color analyst on Jacksonville Armada broadcasts from 2015-2018.