NWSL: Jacksonville eyes expansion bid as USL club unveils name

Jacksonville Armada's planned stadium
An artist's rendering of Jacksonville Armada's stadium planned for Downtown Jacksonville. (Photo by kasper architects + associates)

On the First Coast, sports are at the heart of the community. From the Jacksonville Jaguars to the Jacksonville Icemen and Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, it’s not difficult for fans to engage in the diverse arena of athletics Duval County offers. And more opportunities are on the horizon.

This week, news broke that a new ownership group in Jacksonville is looking to bring an NWSL expansion club to the area. Simultaneously, a separate ownership group announced its branding for an upcoming USL Super League club. That means two Division 1 professional women’s soccer teams could call Jacksonville home in the not-too-distant future.

A flourishing soccer initiative

Within the last few years, Jacksonville has begun expanding its roster of sports teams — bringing local sportsgoers even more excitement. Women’s soccer has been on the rise since the 2019 World Cup. The global phenomenon has spearheaded larger cities to consider offering a new outlook to the beautiful game. One way to help grow the game — besides viewership — is, of course, the location.

A locally known soccer team, Jacksonville Armada FC, had been participating in the fourth tier National Premier Soccer League. The team went on a hiatus and is now slowly claiming back in focus — resuming play in the MLS Next Pro league in 2025. Jacksonville already plans to bring a men’s and women’s team to the Northeast Florida region. They have recently announced the official name of the club as Sporting Jax, encompassing all the First Coast diversity and character that this region is known for. This USL team can now be an addition to the latest endeavor that Jacksonville is focusing on, an NWSL bid.

Robert Palmer’s NWSL vision

Jacksonville Armada FC owner Robert Palmer has expressed interest in having this wonderful game grow to new heights here in the Southeast region of the United States. The recent announcement has begun to spark excitement within the local soccer clubs in this area and folks who are die-hard soccer fans. Having something of this magnitude here would be massive for the game’s growth, let alone bring more prospective soccer ventures to this area.

“I envision Jacksonville playing a pivotal role in the elevation and expansion of the beautiful game,” Palmer expressed. His commitment to bring a new look to Jacksonville has already started to go into fusion as he has been meeting with the NWSL and calling for other like-minded individuals to form a new ownership group.

In the works already is a multi-million stadium project that Palmer himself is financing, which will rest in the heart of downtown Jacksonville, poised and ready for the second phase, which would be to house the desired NWSL team. As time draws nearer, Jacksonville could land the next NWSL expansion team.

JAXUSL edges closer to debut

On December 12 — the same day the NWSL Jacksonville news came out — the JAXUSL ownership group made some major announcements.

Sporting Club Jacksonville (aka Sporting JAX) will be home to both the men’s and women’s teams, competing within the United Soccer League ecosystem. The men’s team will participate in the USL Championship, while the women’s side will be in the USL Super League.

Majority owners, supporters and sponsors were excited to reveal not only the name but also the meaning behind the club’s motto. The colors of the crest were chosen to represent the famous sunrises that the city of Jacksonville offers. The shield stands to represent the honor of those who play for the men’s and women’s teams — helping defend the First Coast.

Dissecting Sporting JAX’s identity

If you look at the wave shape encompassing the logo’s center, this is an ode to the greater Jacksonville area’s rivers, intracoastal waterways and beaches. The club chose the font to represent the connection to Jacksonville’s ‘Bold City’ nickname.

Last but not least, the motto. ‘Lift Every Voice’ is a reminder that this club honors every voice within the region. It embodies a community that is diverse but also authentic. As the press release says, Sporting JAX exists to provide everyone in the community a ‘sporting chance’. The mission is to elevate soccer both on and off the pitch.

Currently, the club is looking to build a 15,000-capacity stadium to host both teams. That’s where key majority owners like Tim Tebow, Ricky Caplin, Steve Livingston, Fred Taylor, and Tony Allegretti can help provide influence.

Tickets and merchandise are now available for anyone to secure and become a part of something historic.

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