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Jacksonville is goal-oriented

Jacksonville pulled off an unlikely coup last year when 45,000 soccer enthusiasts showed up to watch the U.S. men’s team defeat Scotland at Jacksonville’s EverBank Field — a state record for a U.S. Men’s Team international friendly game.

City officials touted the showing — no easy feat in the football-fanatical South —to secure a three-year deal to bring Major League Soccer exhibition games to EverBank Field in February, when the stadium isn’t needed by the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The effort is part of a campaign promise by Mayor Alvin Brown to bring more athletic events to the city. Brown hired a sports and entertainment director, Alan Verlander, with orders to maintain the city’s existing sports events — such as the Players Championship golf tournament — and attract new ones.

Since Brown’s election, the city has secured the Davis Cup tennis match, both men’s and women’s professional soccer games, an Orlando Magic preseason game in the fall and the Navy-Marine Corps Classic basketball game.

Jacksonville has long struggled to compete for tourists against Orlando’s theme parks and Miami’s celebrity-soaked beaches. “We’re not viewed as a destination for vacationing,” Brown says. “It helps us brand the city in a different way,” he says.

Verlander says the fact that the city doesn’t offer a lot of other tourism distractions actually works in its favor. “We don’t just treat you as another event in town. We make you king or queen for the week.”

Major Sporting Events in Jacksonville (2013)

  • Davis Cup (tennis)
  • Philadelphia Union vs. Montreal Impact (Major League Soccer)
  • 26.2 With Donna marathon,
  • half-marathon and relay
  • ESPN Friday Night Fights (boxing)
  • U.S. women’s national soccer team vs. Scotland
  • Moe’s Lacrosse Classic
  • Florida vs. FSU baseball game
  • Tigres de Monterrey vs. Cruz Azul (Mexican soccer)
  • The Players golf championship
  • MLB Alumni Clinic
  • Florida Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony
  • Orlando Magic vs. New Orleans Pelicans (NBA)
  • Florida vs. Georgia football game
  • Disson Ice Skating competition