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In the months since the January announcement that Naples would have a professional soccer team, the ownership group held listening sessions, community town hall meetings, online surveys and social media discussions on what the team name and colors would be.

As a result, FC Naples was born. “What we got from those meetings is we didn’t want to be known as anything other than Naples,” team CEO Roberto Moreno said. “We didn’t want to be Southwest Florida, didn’t want to be flashy. We just want to be Naples, so that’s what we are: Football Club Naples.”

The colors and crest definitely have the look of a waterside community— oceanic blue with traces of white and gold throughout. The letter N is featured prominently in the crest and logo, which also includes seashells and a boat’s keel in the design.

“The crest was a work of art and a work of love,” Moreno said. “You can see every detail in the crest planned out. You’ve got elements of seashells in there, you’ve got different tones of water in there and the white sand color in there. It’s an elegant crest that really represents Naples well.”

The team will make its official debut in March 2025. FC Naples will play in the United Soccer League One, which currently has 12 teams but is expanding to 18 with that expansion including FC Naples. USL One is one of five professional soccer leagues in the country.

More than 1,000 people attended the team’s official launch party at Paradise Sports Complex on Saturday, a strong showing considering the rainy weather when the event started. The team name, colors and crest were revealed during a presentation on a large video board at the complex. Immediately after the big reveal, a marching band played the team’s theme song while people alongside waved FC Naples flags and sang.

“Soccer and community go hand and hand,” co-owner Nico Cantor said. “We may own the team but this is the community’s team. It’s an inextricable bond and that is the main success of a soccer team. To see everyone out here so enthusiastic and supportive, you can’t ask for anything better.”

Fans of all ages attended the ceremony, which included food trucks and a live band. After the team name and colors were unveiled, a makeshift store under a tent opened to sell the first official FC Naples merchandise. A large crowd waited in line for hats, shirts, flags and other memorabilia.

“Basically, to have a pro sports team of any kind is huge for the community,” Collier County commissioner Chris Hall said. “It gives us an identity, something to get behind. It’s the beginning here of the return on the investment the taxpayers have made on this Paradise Sports Complex. I think of how I felt as a kid with the Dal-las Cowboys. I didn’t even live five hours from Dallas but it was something I could get behind; but as I think about that, it’s what makes it big for this community. Not just a return on the investment but the intangibles are a lot bigger. It’s the fact we have something to rally behind, to create a culture behind and something we can all be proud to be a part of.”

Howard Glicken was a member of the first graduating class of Naples High—the Class of 1957. He remembers when Naples was a small community of less than 4,000 people. He said Saturday’s celebration was further proof of how much Naples has evolved since then.

“I’m very thrilled, very excited to be a part of this,” Glicken said. “This team is going to be a very important asset to the community. It’s a big deal and very unique for the city of Naples.”

Immokalee High School was one of several youth organizations bringing players to the event. Senior Cynthia Orozco said she was thrilled to take part in the day’s festivities.

“I think it’s a huge step, a big accomplishment,” she said. “We’re stepping into the future here. We’re all here to support the community and support the new team.”

Darby Ursell of Fort Myers is a lifelong soccer fan who loves attending live games. Having a team so near to support is ideal, he said.

“I think it’s great for Southwest Florida to have a team this close, because the real closest professional team was in Tampa or Miami,” Ursell said. “So, having something on this coast, it’s going to make it great for everyone to be here … When I look around and see a lot of the young kids here, that’s your future fan base. It’s going to be a big motivator for kids and get a lot of them into the game of soccer.”

Commissioner Hall said one of the big advantages of having a professional soccer team is the potential for youth outreach.

“That’s part of those intangibles I’m talking about,” Hall said. “Can you imagine being a high school soccer player and having a surprise visit by one of the star players of the USL soccer team in Naples? Maybe to give a pep talk before a big game, a playoff game or whatever. That’s just huge.”

Moreno said he couldn’t have been more pleased with the turnout for Saturday’s event, especially given the poor weather early on.

“It just shows the passion of the community of Naples and their love for soccer and love for sport,” Moreno said. “This is going to be a community team, a family-oriented team, a values-driven team. And I think by the turnout we’re getting, everyone’s so excited. For me, it’s a dream come true. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be leading a professional soccer team. But now that I’m here, I know it’s my calling.”

Cantor said FC Naples fills a sports void in the city.

“There was no high-profile sports team in Naples,” he said. “There was a void that needed to be filled and you can see how everyone supports each other here. People from Naples are constantly going across Alligator Alley to see sporting events in Miami. So why not give that experience to our community in an unbelievable sports complex?”

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