JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – By a unanimous 16-0 vote Tuesday in the Jacksonville City Council, the Jacksonville Armada has taken another step toward building a soccer stadium near the sports complex.
Team owner Robert Palmer tweeted out this after the vote was tabulated:
Who’s ready to build a stadium?— Robert Palmer (@rp_robertpalmer) March 14, 2023
… and announce going back pro, and a new jersey sponsor, and some other cool stuff
Stay tuned! pic.twitter.com/5XNNlpeait
The Armada debuted as a North American Soccer League team in 2015, playing their first game in front of a league-record crowd of 16,164 at TIAA Bank Field. For the first two years, the team played the majority of its home games at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville. In 2017, the team moved to UNF’s Hodges Stadium.
The following year, the NASL folded forcing the Armada to play in the lower division NPSL. After one year in that league with professionals, the Armada opted to field a team of college players — an option in the NPSL. After not playing in 2020 due to the pandemic, the club moved home games to Patton Park and The Episcopal School of Jacksonville.
Having a home stadium controlled by the team and not shared with other tenants is generally considered a vital piece of a soccer team’s plan for stability. The ability to schedule games when fans are more likely to attend helps drive attendance and owning the parking and concessions rights, as well as the ability to sell the naming rights of a stadium can make a huge difference in the bottom line for the team.
The Armada played in the NPSL in the 2022 season, but are rumored to be looking at a move to MLS Next Pro, a developmental league for Major League Soccer. MLS Next Pro is considered the third division of pro soccer in the United States and would be a step up from the NPSL.
While the Armada is making plans for a stadium, another group has been awarded a USL franchise. JAX USL has not yet announced where they intend on playing but has said that they have looked at several locations for a stadium and referenced the possibility of playing somewhere other than downtown Jacksonville, perhaps in Duval County, perhaps elsewhere.
JAX USL is targeting to begin play in 2025 with both a men’s and a women’s team. That would be when the Armada could begin play as well, potentially making Jacksonville a two-club soccer town.