NASL sails into Northeast Florida aboard Jacksonville Armada FC

By Will Brown

Even someone who dozed during middle school World History has heard of the Spanish Armada. Whether the Jacksonville Armada will achieve similar name cache remains to be seen.

Tuesday, Jacksonville Armada FC was unveiled as the newest addition to the North American Soccer League. Politicians, media, dignitaries and fans were among the 150 people who filed into the Jacksonville Landing to witness the newest chapter in the team’s march to the pitch.

More than 1,500 names were suggested, but club owner Mark Frisch and team president Steve Livingstone said the club’s name, as well as its royal blue, gold and white colors, were a reflection of the Armada’s commitment to this community. 

“Our fans wanted to see the region’s history, the city’s ties to the military and connection to the river and ocean reflected in the name, logo and colors,” Livingstone said. … The robust anchor featured so prominently in our logo is symbolic not just of Armada team history and tradition, but also symbolizes the foundational role the team will play in our city and our commitment to being an integral part of the next chapter of Jacksonville sporting history.”

Kickoff will be in April 2015. By then the 10-team league will have 13 clubs. NASL president Bill Peterson said the second-tier league will expand to 18 teams in the near future. NASL is underneath Major League Soccer and ahead of USL Pro on the American soccer pyramid. During the 2013 fall season, the league’s average attendance was 4,670 fans.

Peterson said soccer is “a vibrant, ever-expanding key fabric to our everyday lives.” Jacksonville has proven that is certainly the case.

Earlier this month, 5,600 fans watched a MLS preseason game during a rainstorm. In 2012, 44,436 watched a U.S. men’s national team friendly in Jacksonville, which was a bigger crowd than any qualifying match for the 2014 World Cup that was played on American soil.

“Having the support of the city and the business community as we launch professional soccer in Jacksonville was so important,” said club owner Mark Frisch. “The NASL will represent the First Coast with pride and elevate the region on a national and international map. I look forward to working with you as we grow Jacksonville as a destination for world-class sports and entertainment.”

The club estimates there are 15,000 to 20,000 people in the region who play competitively or recreationally and another 300,000 soccer enthusiasts in the Jacksonville metro area.

Frisch said the latter number was culled from the combination of youth, collegiate and adult players as well as people who are registered fans with U.S. Soccer and other demographical sources. Before a segment of those fans can begin to watch the Armada the owner admitted there is a lot of work ahead of the club from securing a location, hiring coaches and finding players.

In the interim, there is excitement within Jacksonville soccer circles that the sport has taken another step forward in Northeast Florida.

“We’re ready,” Frisch said. “We have a great team and I’m confident in the job they will do to get the team on the field, the coaches hired and win.”

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