JACKSONVILLE, Fla.- The owner of Jacksonville's professional soccer team says he's committed to the team continuing to play, despite questions about whether their current league will continue to exist in 2017.
"As I continue to work regarding the Jacksonville Armada’s future, I am committed to doing what I feel is in the best interest of the team’s long-term viability,” Armada owner Mark Frisch said in a statement Wednesday.
The statement comes after an announcement by the United States Soccer Federation this week that they hope to resolve the future of the Armada's current league, the North American Soccer League, in the next several days.
While the Armada is considered one of the stronger franchises in the league from a financial standpoint, the league itself is facing a multitude of issues: Three of the 12 teams that hit the field in 2016 will not be in the NASL in 2017. Minnesota United is moving to Major League Soccer while Tampa Bay and Ottawa have announced that they will be moving to the lower division United Soccer League (USL). A new team in San Francisco is scheduled to hit the field in 2017.
Other teams with financial problems include the Armada's Florida rival in Fort Lauderdale where league and Tampa Bay's owner had to make loans so the team could make payroll, and Rayo OKC whose Spanish financial backers team in Spain lost their division one status. The state of the league's defending champions, the New York Cosmos, is also in question as some reports have said the team has informed players and staff that they have ceased operations.
The league's other challenge is its status as the United States only Division Two pro league (similar to AAA-baseball). The previously mentioned USL has applied to be moved up from Division Three to Division Two. That decision rests in the hands of the United States Soccer Federation, the governing body of soccer in the United States. The loss of three or more teams could mean the NASL no longer meets the requirements for a "Division Two" league.
Armada owner, Mark Frisch, was named chairman of the NASL's Board of Governors in September 2015. He then expressed optimism about the league's future, but neither he nor the team had made any public comments about the league's financial issues until now.
“It is my intention to keep the sport of professional soccer alive in Jacksonville and I am working with my leadership team at the Armada to develop a strategy that does just that. Jacksonville’s soccer fans have proven that it is a viable market – and we are working hard to make sure our vision for the future comes to fruition.” Frisch said.
Social media reports suggest that the Armada are one of several NASL sides considering a move to the USL.