New England Soccer Today

NASL Side to Reprise Tea Men Motif

Photo credit: Jacksonville Armada

Photo credit: Jacksonville Armada

A moniker synonymous with New England soccer lore will be honored later this month, albeit at a locale well south of the region.

NASL side Jacksonville Armada will don Jacksonville Tea Men-inspired kits for its Sept. 26 home match at Community First Park against the Tampa Bay Rowdies as a tribute to the franchise that was originally founded in New England during the late-1970s.

The New England Tea Men franchise entered the original NASL in 1978, and played its home games at Foxboro Stadium for two seasons. They eventually relocated to Jacksonville in 1981.

“We’re looking forward to a very memorable night for every soccer fan in Northeast Florida,” said Armada FC President Steve Livingstone said in a club release earlier this month. “We are really excited and thrilled to be honoring Jacksonville’s original professional team by wearing their kits and involving them in our match festivities. ”

The Tea Men franchise went a combined 59-43 in their three seasons in New England. The organization also fielded a team in NASL Indoor during the winter of 1979-80, playing its games at the Providence Civic Center.

Following the conclusion of the 1980 outdoor season, the Lipton Tea Company moved the franchise to Florida after a season’s worth of poor crowds at Foxboro Stadium. A number of Monday night games – a concession made by team owners to avoid conflicts with the nearby Foxboro Raceway – was cited as a reason for the club’s low attendance figures.

The Tea Men became the first pro soccer franchise to call Jacksonville its home when it moved into the Gator Bowl for the 1981 season.

But their stay was short lived, as the franchise competed in NASL for only two seasons before it self-relegated to the second incarnation of the ASL in 1983. To its credit, the club went out with a bang by clinching the ASL title months before it was shuttered for good in 1984.

“The First Coast has a very rich soccer history,” Livingstone said. “The foundation of soccer’s success now can be attributed directly to the Tea Men and the influence they had in pioneering the start-up of youth soccer clubs, such as Clay County Soccer Club, in our area.”

The Armada’s Sept. 26 match is the only known celebration of the Tea Men’s history since the franchise’s demise three decades ago.

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