Veteran head coach brings vast experience to cultivate NE Florida’s new United Soccer League franchise
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Feb. 7, 2023) – JAXUSL, the United Soccer League (USL) franchise group bringing men’s and women’s professional soccer to Northeast Florida, today announced that Mauricio Ruiz, former veteran head coach of Jacksonville University’s men’s soccer program, has joined the professional soccer organization in a fundamental business development role and will also advise and support the organization’s continuing soccer operations efforts in a technical capacity. Additionally, Ruiz will serve a vital role by cultivating relationships between JAXUSL and the First Coast’s numerous youth and adult soccer clubs.
JAXUSL President & CEO, Steve Livingstone, said, “We’re thrilled to have a person of Mauricio’s caliber and experience join JAXUSL. Along with his extensive knowledge and experience in college soccer and player development, Mauricio is well-known throughout the First Coast business and sporting community and a highly-respected leader throughout Florida’s soccer community as a coach, mentor and passionate ambassador for the game. Off the pitch, Mauricio has a proven track record in business development and fundraising, and his strengths will immediately enhance our efforts to promote JAXUSL and stadium plans to the broader Northeast Florida community. Mauricio’s coaching and recruitment experience will also fulfill a vital new role in to bridge the gap at the youth and collegiate levels.”
Ruiz will support JAXUSL to foster connections with Northeast Florida businesses, while also aligning the local soccer community with the wider playing and coaching communities across the United States. This endeavor aims to bring the highest level of pro soccer back to the First Coast, while introducing a direct pathway to professional soccer for male and female players.
Mauricio Ruiz, said, “I’m humbled and excited to be a part of JAXUSL to bring pro soccer back to Northeast Florida. The First Coast is an exceptional market for youth soccer and we have a passionate soccer community. Uniting our soccer landscape will be a key step to helping us accomplish our long-term goals to educate, develop and showcase our area’s talent on a top stage. One day, I’d love to see a local girl or boy make their pro debut in front of their hometown crowd and the impact that could make for generations of athletes. I’m thankful for the confidence and responsibility the new franchise has placed in me, and I’m thrilled to be a part of growing the sport of soccer in our region and across the country.”
Ruiz has considerable experience in identifying and developing young soccer talent. Among the players he has previously recruited and helped develop during his college coaching tenures are United States Men’s National Team goalkeeper Sean Johnson, who recently signed with Major League Soccer’s Toronto FC, and Hadji Barry, who broke the USL Championship transfer record last year with his move from Colorado Spring Switchbacks FC to Egyptian Premier League side Future FC.
A native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, Ruiz has also helped shaped the futures of several senior international and professional players, including Jamaican internationals Deshorn Brown and Romario Williams (currently with the USL Championship’s Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC), Trinidad and Tobago international Kevan George, and former Orange County SC defender Joe Amico.
Ruiz, who holds a U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) “A” license in coaching, led Jacksonville University’s men’s soccer program from 2014-2022 and guided the program to the ASUN Conference Tournament title in 2021, which was the team’s first NCAA appearance since 2008. He joined the Dolphins after spending seven seasons at the University of Central Florida (UCF), where he assisted in developing the Knights into one of the top programs in the nation. In both roles, Ruiz helped his teams win on the pitch while developing his players’ individual talents and drove crucial funding for the development of his successful programs.
Prior to his time at UCF, Ruiz was highly involved with the Greater Central Florida youth soccer community, where he worked as the Director of Coaches for the Florida Soccer Alliance in Lake Mary from 2010 – 2012. He also held a US Soccer Academy staff coach role with Orlando City, working with some of the top players in the Orlando area before receiving his US Soccer A License in 2019.
In his playing days, Ruiz starred at UCF before finishing his collegiate career at Stetson. As a Knight, he was part of the conference championship team that reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history. Playing two seasons with the Hatters, he captained the team to an Atlantic Sun Championship during his senior year. During the 2007 – 2008 season, he suited up professionally with the Orlando Sharks of the Major Indoor Soccer League, played 27 out of 30 games and recorded seven goals and four assists as a rookie.
Additionally, Ruiz earned a bachelor’s degree in Management Information Systems from Stetson University in 2005 and master’s degree in Sports Business from Jacksonville University in 2019. Born and raised in Sao Paulo, Brazil, he moved to the United States in 1996 with his parents and two sisters. Ruiz and his wife, Milena, reside in Jacksonville with their son, Maddox. Together, they also founded World Sports United, a non-profit organization that partners with missionary soccer academies in Central America. These academies use soccer to equip and support young people as a tool to share the love of God in their homes and communities, with the hope to create systematic impact for generations to come.