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Is Jacksonville Becoming A Soccer Town?

Patrick Donges

A growing number of people on the First Coast are interested in soccer.

That seems to be the message sent by the record number of fans who showed up  for the US Men’s match against Nigeria on Saturday, June 7 at Everbank Field.

Joel Lamp, interim director of the city of Jacksonville’s Sports and Entertainment department says it’s no surprise that attendance topped 52,000.

“The crowd we had at Everbank Field over the weekend- that was a great testament to what we’ve got going here in Jacksonville," he said. "We’ve set, now, the southeastern record for two US World Cup friendly matches here in Jacksonville, so we’re continuing to build that soccer culture.”

The city’s new North American Soccer League team, Armada FC, hopes to capitalize on that culture when it starts its first official season next spring. Team President Steve Livingstone is optimistic about the growth of soccer in Florida, and in particular, Jacksonville.

“I think having soccer here in Jacksonville at the level we’re going to have makes it a much more cosmopolitan city," he said. "Soccer is a global sport, and we have the opportunity here to join the rest of the world, if you like, in soccer. And I have no doubt that Jacksonville would be an excellent center for soccer in the southeast.”    

The Armada hopes to continue to develop a soccer fan base in Jacksonville by hosting watch parties for the World Cup throughout the summer.