USLJAX leaders Ricky Caplin, Tim Tebow and Steve Livingstone are aiming to build an accessible, community-drive club in Tebow's hometown of Jacksonville. | Photo courtesy Deremer Studios / USLJAX
Growing up in Jacksonville, the 90-minute drives that Tim Tebow and his dad would make between their home and Gainesville to the campus of the University of Florida were in many ways aspirational.
“My dad would drive me to The Swamp, and we’d go to Doug’s Dairy Twirl and get a smoothie,” said Tebow, who went on to become a legend for the Gators football program. “We would go, and I would be able to see something that was a dream.”
Now, the Heisman Trophy winner is looking to bring that same sense of aspiration to his home city as part of an ownership group led by Ricky Caplin aiming to launch a USL Championship club for the 2025 season. The group, which also includes experienced soccer executive Steve Livingstone and local community innovator Tony Allegretti, announced plans for a 15,000-capacity venue that will be home to a third Championship club in the Sunshine State alongside the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Miami FC.
The Jacksonville-based club would also add to the league’s growing footprint in the southeast, with a new club in New Orleans, La. also aiming to join the Championship alongside existing clubs Birmingham Legion FC, the Charleston Battery, Memphis 901 FC, and Louisville City FC.
“For too long, there have been so many boys and girls who had the dream of being able to one day do that but haven’t really had the vision because it wasn’t here in front of them,” said Tebow. “Now, they're going to have that vision of someone that they look up to say ‘one day, maybe I could be like her.’ ‘One day, maybe I could be like him.’ I am so grateful to be part of this, because I think we get to encourage young boys and girls that they can go after this and live out their dreams. They can try to be successful, but also, they can strive to be significant, and we get to be able to encourage them. We get to be able to inspire them.”
The newly established club is seeking feedback from the local soccer community on its identity and will conduct outreach in the coming months as plans for the club come together. The organization has also teamed with Florida Elite, which competes in both USL League Two and the USL W League while also operating one of the largest youth soccer organizations in the state.
For Livingstone, who previously served as Chief Operating Officer at two-time USL Championship title winner Louisville City FC, the aim is to build a club that will represent Jacksonville and the broader Northeast Florida area with a community-driven ideal.
“We really think it’s important to make this beautiful game accessible to everybody,” said Livingstone. “Today is an important day for our cities, our counties, and our region. Professional soccer, the world’s game, is finally on its way back to Northeast Florida.”
“This is fantastic opportunity for our community, and we are committed to building USL teams that our region will be proud of, doing it the right way. Returning pro soccer to a region is a great honor, but it’s also a great responsibility, one that we don’t take lightly.”
It’s one, however, that Tebow and the organization is eager to embrace.
“I may not know much about soccer, but I know a lot about dreams, and visions, and hopes, and goals,” said Tebow. “I believe that there are going to be 10,000 young people that you get to inspire every single day that are going to be able to look and see a dream, see an opportunity, a goal, and be able to go after it. That's why I’m excited about this, because this is where I call home. This is where I got the chance to grow up.
“This is an amazing place. It’s a special place, and now we're going to have 10,000 young people that are going to be able to follow the vision that Ricky had, and I'm so grateful for that. He's gotten all of us together to believe in this, not just because it’s a great sport, but because this is home and we get to give young kids a dream, a vision and we get to inspire them.”