MLS NEXT Pro on Thursday announced the addition of Jacksonville Armada FC as a new independent club to the league.
The Armada, based in Jacksonville, Florida, will join MLS NEXT Pro, targeting 2025 as their first year in the league. The team becomes the third independent club scheduled to join the league in coming seasons, alongside Carolina Core FC and Cleveland. Pending sanctioning approval by the US Soccer Federation, Jacksonville will be the third MLS NEXT Pro team in the state of Florida, alongside MLS affiliates Inter Miami II and Orlando City B.
“Growing the sport of soccer is a foundational pillar for MLS NEXT Pro and the addition of strong independent clubs is critically important to that,” said Charles Altchek, President of MLS NEXT Pro.
“It was clear from the beginning of our conversations with Robert Palmer and the Armada that their priorities are aligned with ours, most importantly their commitment to the passionate fan base in Jacksonville. We’re thrilled to welcome the Armada to the League and look forward to seeing the impact they will have both on and off the field, particularly in their local community.”
The city of Jacksonville has a deep history of professional soccer dating back to 1980. The current iteration of the Armada was acquired in 2017 by Florida native Robert Palmer, founder and CEO of the Robert Palmer Companies, which includes LPT Realty, RP Funding and several other business ventures.
"As owner of the Jacksonville Armada, I serve as the steward of the team for our fans. We have waited patiently for a league to come along that would provide high level competition, stability, and the opportunity to grow. That day is today,” said Palmer. “We are thrilled to announce our partnership with MLS NEXT Pro and the return of the Armada to the professional ranks."
Jacksonville Armada FC is also embarking on the construction of a state-of-the-art, soccer-specific stadium, situated within the Eastside community and next to the sports and entertainment district. In addition to housing team operations and providing a venue for Armada games, the stadium will also serve as a first-of-its-kind co-working space, anchored by the Palmer-owned LPT Realty. The Armada will break ground on the stadium in January 2024 with the intent of completing construction to allow for the team to begin play in MLS NEXT Pro in 2025.