Jacksonville Soccer Starting From Scratch

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Dario Sala (left) and Mark Frisch of the Sunshine Soccer Group discuss the future of Jacksonville’s NASL franchise in their new, unadorned office. The team begins play in 2015. (photo by Cole Pepper)

by Cole Pepper
September 1, 2014

It’s not that there isn’t anything to see from Mark Frisch’s new office. There just isn’t much to see on the inside.

Looking out from his 32nd floor downtown office, Jacksonville stretches out from the base of the building, down the St. John’s River toward the sports complex and beyond.

The question is this: at some point, will the NASL team’s (name to be determined, probably by October) stadium be visible?

Those are the two questions Frisch is asked most often about his NASL team. What will the team be called (he says he’s asked several times a day)? Where are you going to play (either UNF or EverBank Field, a decision he hopes to make in the next two months)?

In his new office, barren, without a single piece of furniture, save for the built in waist high cabinet next to the front door, Frisch can allow himself to enjoy the nothingness. NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson offered Frisch the chance to purchase a team to be relocated, but the 32-year old didn’t want to fix a broken franchise. Instead, he wanted to build something from the ground up.

“It’s exciting,” Frisch said. “We just got approval to get the key here last week. It’s really awesome. You don’t get many opportunities to do something, especially in the sports world like that. It’s going to be an amazing time.”

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For now, there are no desks, no chairs, not even a phone at the headquarters of the Jacksonville NASL franchise. Owner Mark Frisch (right) expects that to change within weeks and by October, Frisch says he will unveil the team name, colors, logo and top business executive. (photo by Cole Pepper)

For Frisch, this is all about prioritizing. He wants to start building the fan base early. Several hundred season tickets were reserved by fans who put down a small deposit. He has his soccer guy, Dario Sala, who will handle the duties of finding and signing a coach and player as well as developing the academy system for Jax NASL. The next step will be to hire a business head. Something akin to what Mark Lamping is to the Jaguars, a president of business operations who will work hand in hand with Frisch and Sala to create the full organization over time. That hire may be the next big announcement to come out of the Sunshine Soccer Group, the company Frisch and Sala set up to promote soccer and eventually bring the team to Jacksonville.

“To me this is more exciting that buying a team and relocating them,” Frisch said. “This is our team from the ground up here in Jacksonville.”

Listen to Cole Pepper’s full interview with Mark Frisch:

 

Both Frisch and Sala have traveled around the soccer world to learn from the franchises who have enjoyed the best success in the MLS and NASL. The challenge is to blend the best practices of those other teams with a message that will resonate in Jacksonville with the already dedicated soccer fans as well as those who want to be a part of the newest sports franchise in town. Then there is the building of the academy, the youth teams that will feed talent into the NASL team. In essence, the Jacksonville NASL’s minor leagues.

For those who are already sold on supporting the team, jaxnasl.com is the website where individuals can pay a $30 per ticket deposit to reserve their season tickets for the inaugural season in 2015.

8 thoughts on “Jacksonville Soccer Starting From Scratch”

  1. Three major problems.

    #1. No one cares about soccer here. If they do, they watch the English Premier League at some local bars.

    #2. This is a NASL club and not even a D1 MLS club. So it is a minor league team. So not only is it soccer, but really bad soccer. Fans don’t want to watch Americans play soccer badly. The NASL stinks.

    #3. They only have two guys!! Lol

    Sounds like this Frisch character got bamboozled. He is going to lose all his money.

    1. I don’t think I agree with all of your points.

      #1. The soccer ratings for Gold Cup and MLS all star game were very good in Jacksonville, among the best in the country, there is a very active adult soccer league and the youth leagues are packed.

      #2. Clearly, the NASL isn’t on the level of the MLS, but it’s like a Triple-A level of talent. The NASL is looking to grown the league and perhaps challenge the MLS. Some of the strategic partnerships that NASL team can develop could make a big difference in that regard.

      #3. They only have two guys right now because they just got the team. They don’t start playing until 2015. I’m not sure what you would expect this far out. As I pointed out in the article, they’re going to hire their business executive (not sure if he’s going to be team president or VP of Business or what the title will be) in the next month or two. How many guys should they have right now?

      I understand the skepticism about new sports franchises. I have seen a lot of minor league sports come and go in my 17 years in Jacksonville, but I think the timing of this team is very good. If you aren’t a soccer fan, that’s fine, but I believe this could be a very positive addition to the local sports scene and could potentially grow into something bigger. Think of this team as a proof of concept for the MLS (or a team that will rise with the NASL).

      Only time will tell.

  2. Cole,
    Thanks for addressing Steve’s (and probably many others) concerns. It is a beginning of sorts (1st was the Tea Men). The first attempt didn’t have the benefit of the adult and kid leagues you mentioned nor did they have the Internet or Fox Soccer. The Jax crowds that broke attendance records for matches in the U.S. (I suspect Steve was asleep from the 9am premier match at the pub) showed up because soccer is a great sport. Good players, bad players and somewhere in between is something any sports fan is familiar with. Thanks to these guys for stepping out with both hope and finances for the future of Jacksonville Soccer!

  3. You have no idea what you are talking about. You should probably just stay out of soccer if you don’t like it so much. Nobody will miss you.

    Great responses Cole and well said. This guy is just a hater and a nobody.

  4. Been many failed attempts at professional or amateur soccer in Jacksonville. But that was a long time ago and a lot has changed for the city and the sport entirely. Steve here can sit back and watch EPL from his couch. Nobody will miss him while I’m enjoying watching LIVE soccer in person in 2015.

  5. I grew up in Jacksonville and remember the Tea Men quite well. I hope they give the nonsensical name another run out. My kids and I were talking about this last night, and will certainly do a couple of combined beach and soccer trips when the team gets going.

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