Florida youth-to-pro USL expansion franchise


USL expanding to Jacksonville in 2025 Image: USL

The United Soccer League (USL) announced on August 30th that JAXUSL, a Jacksonville (Florida, US)-based group of investors and executives, has acquired the rights to a USL Championship expansion franchise with the intent of beginning play in 2025. The new club will be the first in Northeast Florida to feature both men’s and women’s professional soccer.

‘USL’ stated that JAXUSL also has formed a partnership with the Florida Elite Soccer Academy, one of the largest and most successful youth soccer organizations in the United States. Headquartered in St. Johns County in Florida, the Florida Elite includes more than 10,000 members throughout Northeast Florida, and fields pre-professional teams in USL League Two and USL W League. The expansion club will be among the first in the United States to offer a complete pathway from youth to pro for men and women.

The United Soccer League (USL) is the largest professional soccer organization in North America, possessing nearly a decade of experience in bringing the world’s game to communities across the United States and Canada. Overseeing the USL Championship, USL League One, and USL League Two, the organization is built on a proven and recognized model in international football and counts more than 100 clubs in its membership.

The USL Championship is a professional men’s soccer league in the United States that began its inaugural season in 2011. The USL is sanctioned by the United States Soccer Federation as a Division II league since 2017, placing it under Major League Soccer (MLS) in the hierarchy. The USL is headquartered in Tampa, Florida.

The USL League One is a professional men’s soccer league in the United States that had its inaugural season in 2019. The Division III league is operated by the United Soccer League, the same group that operates the Division II USL Championship and other leagues.

The USL League Two, formerly the Premier Development League, is a semi-professional developmental soccer league sponsored by the United Soccer Leagues in the United States and Canada, forming part of the United States soccer league system.

The USL W League is a pre-professional women’s soccer league in the United States which began play in May 2022. It was announced on June 8th, 2021 by the United Soccer League with eight founding clubs. It follows the USL W-League, a similar league that existed from 1995 to 2015.

‘USL’ further stated that the USL Championship currently features 27 professional, community-driven clubs across the United States with plans to add expansion teams in Iowa, Rhode Island, Louisiana, and more. The USL Super League will bring professional women’s soccer to new markets and create opportunities for women on and off the field.

JAXUSL’s lead investor is Ricky Caplin, one of Northeast Florida’s leading entrepreneurs and principal of the Caplin Ventures. Florida sports legend Tim Tebow (American football player) is a supporting owner of the club, bringing experience as a professional athlete, investor and philanthropist. Joining Caplin and Tebow in JAXUSL are experienced professional soccer executive Steve Livingstone and local community innovator Tony Allegretti. As founders and managing partners, Livingstone and Allegretti will oversee the day-to-day operations of JAXUSL in establishing and growing the USL expansion club.

The USL Championship team intends to kick off in 2025, contingent on securing a home venue on the First Coast (Florida) for the club. The JAXUSL is actively engaged with the local stakeholders and has identified multiple potential locations for the development of a 15,000-capacity stadium and a world-class training facility. Details about the stadium and training facility will be announced in the coming months.

Soccer fans across Northeast Florida will be invited to help develop the club’s brand through community consultation, town halls and a naming competition. Fans can register their interest in the club now by securing a season ticket deposit for $25 at the club’s official website – www.jaxusl.com.

USL Chief Operating Officer (COO) and Chief Real Estate Officer Justin Papadakis and USL Super League and W League President Amanda Vandervort joined the JAXUSL leaders at TPC Sawgrass for the announcement made on August 30th.

Stated Papadakis, “This is an extraordinary opportunity for the USL and Northeast Florida. We know the incredible sports fans of Jacksonville and the First Coast will really support their pro soccer club and make it their own. Ricky Caplin, Tim Tebow, Steve Livingstone, and Tony Allegretti form a world-class leadership team with deep ties to this community and unmatched vision. The club’s relationship with the Florida Elite Soccer Academy provides myriad advantages on both the community and soccer sides which position the club for long-term success.”

Justin Papadakis – COO and Chief Real Estate Officer – United Soccer League, will be one of the key-note Speakers at the Coliseum Summit US to be held at the Dignity Health Sports Park, Los Angeles, on September 28th and September 29th, 2022.

Said JAXUSL Lead Investor Ricky Caplin, “Our region has a rich and storied tradition of sporting excellence, from the gridiron to the island green and beyond. Our local teams and athletes have long been among the best, and our fans are some of the most passionate in the nation. Our community is made up of a diverse and international citizenry, which has a deep appreciation for the game of soccer. I’m thrilled to be partnering with Tim, Steve and Tony to bring the USL to our wonderful First Coast community and we look forward to identifying the right location, facilities and partners to make this dream a reality.”

The USL Super League and W League President Amanda Vandervort stated, “The USL is dedicated to creating thousands of opportunities in the women’s game by building a complete youth-to-pro pathway. Jacksonville-based Florida Elite, which competed in the USL W League this season, demonstrates how strong the existing soccer infrastructure in Northeast Florida is. The JAXUSL will provide girls and women with the opportunity to train in a world-class environment and compete in front of thousands of fans right here in their hometown.”

Added JAXUSL Supporting Owner Tim Tebow, “This is a fantastic and exciting development for our community here on the First Coast. I’m thrilled to be part of the new ownership group that seeks to bring some incredible pro teams and world-class facilities to our area that will be accessible to the whole community. I’d like to thank Ricky, Steve and Tony for presenting this opportunity, which I look forward to being directly involved in, and with my Foundation.”

Said Steven Mail, Florida Elite President, “We’re extremely excited to join with the JAXUSL ownership group in the further development of soccer in Northeast Florida. We look forward to continuing our already established partnership with the USL. We are delighted to work with Ricky, Steve and their team to build a strong local pathway to professional soccer for our players.”

JAXUSL Founder and Managing Partner Steve Livingstone added, “Today’s (August 30th) announcement has been years in the making, and we’re delighted to finally bring both men’s and women’s USL professional soccer to the First Coast. Soccer fandom in Northeast Florida, in terms of both participation and viewership, is off the charts and we are thrilled to be able to finally satisfy our region’s desire for not only the return of professional soccer but the creation and development, through the USL and Florida Elite, of a pathway to pro soccer for the young people of our region.”

Florida’s First Coast, or simply the First Coast, is a region of the US State of Florida, located on the Atlantic coast of North Florida. The First Coast refers to the same general area as the directional region of Northeast Florida.

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