Soccer continues to ride a growing wave as popularity soars

Jacksonville ArmadaBy Jared Brehm |

Starting in the spring of 2015, Jacksonville will have its first professional soccer club when the Jacksonville Armada FC kick off.

The Armada was the brain child of local business man and soccer fanatic Mark Frisch. Frisch, who is the owner of Sea Best Seafood, was awarded the franchise in Jacksonville after members of the NASL Committee voted unanimously in 2013 to give Jacksonville a team. But why a soccer team, and why in Jacksonville? It seems that everyone is going crazy over soccer.

In an interview with Matt Verracchia, the director of marketing operations for the Jacksonville Armada, said soccer is catching on in the States because it is such an approachable sport. “There are a lot of opportunities for kids to go out to games and have the connection with the players,” he said.

An avid soccer fan and player since he was a child, Verracchia said it’s terrific to see the sport that has been popular all over the world connect with fans here.

“When I was growing up, soccer was underground,” he said. “You had to dig deep to find even soccer scores. Now you have ESPN scrolls and people walking around outside with World Cup jerseys on.”

There is plenty of evidence today that Verracchia is right.

In 2014, ESPN produced its annual sports poll report that asked fans to rank their favorite sports in descending order. For the first time, the report found that soccer has finally caught one of the four major sports in the U.S. Amongst 12- to 17-year-olds, MLS soccer was tied in popularity with Major League Baseball.

When asked how leagues like the MLS and NASL are attracting the younger generation to latch onto the sport, Verracchia said, “The approachability of the game is key. You can get close to the players from any walk of life, and you only need a ball and trees to play the game. It’s a real opportunity for anyone to feel like you are a part of that dream.”

Verracchia sees this younger generation of fans increasing the popularity and continuing to grow the sport in new markets like Jacksonville.

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