Despite uncertainty, Jacksonville Armada signs four players for 2018

Uncertainty regarding Jacksonville Armada FC’s fate hasn’t shut down its preparations for this year.

The team announced Wednesday it has signed four players -- three of whom joined up last season -- to play in 2018. Coming back for their second seasons are J.C. Banks, Ciaran Kilduff, and Kalen Ryden; also returning is Derek Gebhard, a member of the Armada since its startup in 2015.

After operating with eight teams in 2017, the NASL’s membership has dwindled. Champion San Francisco and FC Edmonton folded, and Indy Eleven and North Carolina FC have joined the USL.

Jacksonville owner Robert Palmer has said the Armada will field a team in the NPSL, where it has had a U-23 team, in 2018. One of the other survivors, Miami FC, will field a new second team -- Miami FC2 -- in the NPSL this spring. The NPSL season starts in March and concludes in early July.

In January, the NASL announced it would change to a European schedule and play from August 2018 to June 2019. It is awaiting a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals after the U.S. District Court in November denied its request for a preliminary injunction by which it would retain Division 2 status. Sanction as a Division 2 league, which had been provisionally granted by U.S. Soccer in January 2017, was terminated in early September.

Yet to announce any plans for 2018 are the New York Cosmos and Puerto Rico FC, which is sorting out its future in the aftermath of devastation caused by Hurricane Maria’s landfall on the island Sept. 20.

An NASL expansion team, California United FC, is on the docket to play in 2018. Another -- San Diego 1904 FC -- has announced its intention to launch in 2019. Six NPSL teams have reportedly signed agreements by which they will play in the NASL this year with financial assistance from existing members.

Last season Banks anchored the midfield for all 32 matches and registered five goals and one assist. Kilduff arrived in the fall and scored four goals in 12 appearances. Ryden established a regular slot in the back line and in 31 games scored a goal along with registering four assists.

Gebhard is a graduate of the team’s U-23 squad who scored four goals in 32 games last season. Jacksonville finished fifth in the 2017 overall standings at 10-9-13 (W-L-T) and missed the playoffs.
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