Until the future of the North American Soccer League (NASL) is settled, the Jacksonville Armada will compete in the semi-pro National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) at the beginning of the 2018 season — leaving open the chance to participate in the 2018 NASL season should the league survive.
There have been questions about the NASL’s future since September, when the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) announced that the circuit would not retain its Division II status for the 2018 season. A previous request for a preliminary injunction to retain Divison II status was denied in November, but the league has since appealed and is awaiting a ruling. In the interim, it has been announced that the NASL is planning to use the international soccer calendar for its 2018-19 season, with an August-to-June slate.
It’s a fairly ingenious solution for owner Robert Palmer, who has put Armada soccer as a centerpiece of his Florida marketing effort. It allows the Armada to retain players and stay in shape and be ready if some iteration of the NASL plays in 2018. Right now there are four NASL teams standing — Jacksonville, Miami FC, New York Cosmos and Puerto Rico FC — with Orange County and San Diego waiting in the wings. While the league awaits a decision, other teams have bailed (North Carolina FC, Indy Eleven both went to the USL), and others have basically put operations on hold. Playing in the NPSL also keep the franchise alive to play in the USL, USL D3 or NISA in 2019 as well — or an unsanctioned independent league, as Palmer says he’s looking at forming his own circuit.
Team owner Palmer has taken a very interesting approach to pro sports: besides the Armada, he’s also purchased naming rights to the Lakeland arena hosting the Orlando Magic G-League squad and tied both into marketing efforts for his other consumer businesses, including televising game matches.
Here’s the full statement from Palmer:
Following my Facebook Live comments made regarding the future of the team recently, I wanted to provide Armada FC supporters with additional information.
As I indicated at the time, my No. 1 priority was to ensure that the Armada would play soccer in 2018. We have been looking for the best opportunity for our team, given the uncertainty surrounding U.S. Soccer and the NASL.
I am happy to announce that we’ve found a temporary home.
From April through July of 2018, Armada FC will be playing in the National Premier Soccer League.
We will retain our full coaching staff and field a team for the 2018 NPSL season. Our roster will not be limited by age and will feature five or six players from our current Armada roster.
Our professional players will be using the NPSL games as a preseason training opportunity until August.
We will play our games at the University of North Florida and there will be no change to our gameday experience.
This isn’t the first time the Armada have played in the NPSL. We certainly understand the competitive level.
We also intend to play a handful of exhibition games as we prepare for the season in April. Stayed tuned to the Armada FC social media channels for more information.
While the NASL is still searching for answers relative to our season, I wanted to ensure that the Armada took to the pitch in 2018.
We continue to work with the other NASL owners with the goal of taking the field in August. We are also engaged in discussions with other start-up leagues that intend to seek sanctioning from the United States Soccer Federation.
For the future security of the Armada, I have put together a task force comprised of the brightest minds across my companies and soccer experts.
This task force is exploring the possibility of funding and operating an unsanctioned professional league. It would be an option if the other leagues are not able to successfully navigate the political landscape of the USSF. I welcome feedback from all fans and Armada FC stakeholders during this planning process.
We appreciate our loyal supporters and promise to put a very competitive squad on the pitch, regardless of where we are playing.
I look forward to seeing all of you at Hodges Stadium in a couple of months.
Image courtesy Jacksonville Armada.
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