By Official Florida FC

Jacksonville will no longer be relegated to the backwater of the American soccer ecosystem. The United Soccer League announced a USL Championship club will kick off in Jacksonville in 2025.

The investor group will be led by Jacksonville-based venture capitalist Ricky Caplin. Tim Tebow is also in the investor group.

The biggest challenge for the ownership group will be finding a stadium. The JAXUSL owners are confident they will not suffer a similar fate because of corporate and social buy-in as well as its ties to Florida Elite Soccer Academy, Northeast Florida’s biggest youth soccer club.

Three previous attempts at professional soccer in Jacksonville, dating back to 1980, have failed either due to league instability or stadium issues.

“We have no choice but to get it right,” Caplin told WJCT News. “…There’s been a lot of studies put into it so we kind of know the geographic radius that it has to be in.”

(Disclosure: Official Florida FC Founder Will Brown wrote the article and is an employee of WJCT Public Media.)

USL Chief Operating Officer Justin Papadakis said the announcement would benefit young players.

“This is the most exciting time in the history of soccer in the United States,” Papadakis said. “The purpose of the 1994 World Cup was the spur the development of professional soccer here in the United States. When we bookend that with 2026 — when the World Cup comes to the United States — the results of that effort will really be astounding.”

Caplin was one of those who caught the soccer bug watching the 1994 World Cup. He remembered sitting watching the games on a television at his grandparents’ house when he was a teenager.

The United Soccer League announced it will field an expansion team in Jacksonville starting in 2025. The ownership group includes former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow.

Caplin’s co-owner, Tebow, was drawn to soccer later. Tebow played football and baseball at Nease High School, before winning every award imaginable as a college football player, becoming a broadcaster, philanthropist, motivational speaker and much more. Tebow, who owns a minority stake in Jacksonville’s minor league hockey franchise, said people, product and purpose led him to invest in a second professional sports club.

Daniel Davis, the CEO of the JAX Chamber and a candidate for Jacksonville mayor, told Official Florida FC that the soccer club would add to the quality of life for Northeast Florida and be a welcomed addition alongside other sports and entertainment options.

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