The NASL will retain its ownership of the Jacksonville Armada on an ongoing basis, as efforts to find a new local owner have so far been fallen short — at a time when the importance of Jacksonville to the circuit remain high.
Mark Frisch walked away from the Armada on Jan. 7, with the league taking control of the team. Since then the team’s home has been been shifted to the University of North Florida’s Hodges Stadium from the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, and the team has been an okay draw with 3,369 fans over the first three home matches. But the league has certainly downsized the operation, shutting down the Armada U-23 team (National Premier Soccer League) and the Armada FC Youth Academy.
According to NASL Commissioner Rishi Sehgal, there has been some local interest in taking over the Armada, but nothing that’s translated into any sort of tangible bid. Still, Sehgal says he knows what the league is looking for in a new owner. From the Florida Times-Union:
“One, they’re passionate about soccer. Two, they’re passionate about this community. Three, they see a value in the Armada that can grow,” Sehgal said. “It has to be about growth.”…
Sehgal said there is no “hard timetable” in place for finding a new owner. He declined to say how many prospective owners had expressed interest.
“We’ve spoken with several people locally, kind of discussing through the plans and making sure that we have the right group that’s interested,” Sehgal said.
Why is Jacksonville so key to the future of the NASL? Two reasons.
First, NASL is currently playing at eight teams, and U.S. Soccer has laid out a requirement that any Division II team be at 12 teams. It’s already any uphill climb for NASL to add four teams for 2018, so keeping Jacksonville in the fold is essential for the league to stay at Division II.
Second, Jacksonville is a pretty good market. By keeping it as an NASL market, it keeps out the USL — at least for now.