Jacksonville’s World Cup Connection
FIFA’s World Cup is in full swing and so far the U.S. Men’s National Team (USNMT) has comported itself well in its “Group of Death,” defeating Ghana 2-1 and playing to a heartbreaking draw with Portugal 2-2 in a match that saw Portugal equalize the score on a goal that literally was scored on the last play of the match. Still, the U.S., as of the writing of this blog, sits atop its group, tied with Germany.
We, here in Jacksonville, would like to take a little credit for that success, thank you.
If you recall, Jacksonville was the site of the USMNT’s last friendly match against Nigeria before the team was whisked off to compete on the big stage in Brazil. Over 2,000 fans showed up at EverBank Field just to watch them train for the match.
When asked what he thought of training in Jacksonville, U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard yelled, “It’s hot!”
Which was just what USMNT’s head coach, Jurgen Kilinsmann wanted.
Citing similar weather conditions in Jacksonville that the USNMT would probably also face in Brazil, Klinsmann thought that the city was the perfect place to train just before jetting off to compete in the World Cup. Klinsmann went on to tell First Coast News that Jacksonville held a special place in his heart, given the reception the U.S. team was given at a friendly match against Scotland held at EverBank Field in 2012. Over 40,000 fans showed up for that game
“We got tremendous support from the fans,” said the U.S. coach.
Over 52,000 fans attended the most recent match on June 7, which was the third and last tune-up game of the so-called “Send-Off” series featuring the U.S. Team. The U.S. won that game 2-1 and the city of Jacksonville set a Florida attendance record for the game.
A (not as large) crowd recently gathered in the courtyard at Jacksonville Landing to watch the U.S. defeat Ghana in its first World Cup group match. “I definitely think it’s a growing sport and gaining in popularity especially here in Jacksonville,” said one elated fan.
The Jacksonville Armada football club organized Jacksonville Landing watch party. Jacksonville Armada FC will officially launch into the North American Soccer League (NASL) early next year.
Regardless of whether the U.S. moves out of its “Group of Death” to compete in the quarterfinals or not, we like to think that our fair city has had a small hand in helping build the future of U.S. Soccer.