The history of soccer in Jacksonville is longer than some new arrivals might think. From 1980, when the Jacksonville Tea Men started off in the North American Soccer League, to today, when the Jacksonville Armada play locally, soccer has had a foothold here for decades.
Even in 2016, the U.S. National Team played in Jacksonville — a match against Trinidad and Tobago, with an outcome that was never in doubt, drew nearly 20,000 people.
However, as soccer grows domestically, the stakes — and the expectations — are higher. And both arguably will peak in 2026, when the United States, Canada, and Mexico plan to join forces for a NAFTA version of the iconic event — with 48 teams expected to comprise the sprawling field.
Meanwhile, as correspondence from U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati to Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry reveals, Jacksonville is in the mix to host World Cup action … which will involve, in 2026, a whopping 80 matches over a 30 day period.
“Jacksonville is a strong candidate for participation in this process, given your support of soccer, stadium facilities, and the related tourism infrastructure you already have in place. As such, we will be making informal contact with the stadium and sports commission contacts in your city in the coming days, but we wanted first to make you aware of this significant opportunity, so Jacksonville can best present itself as a participant in this process,” Gulati remarked.
The ultimate goal, according to Gulati: “a world class bid that harnesses the immense social, cultural, and economic power of our continent to ensure that North America can deliver a 21st century vision of soccer’s greatest event. It will be a vision the world can share.”
We have reached out to Curry’s office for any comment that the Mayor or staffers may want to offer; if such is provided, this article will be updated.