The Sarasota Paradise, the Hottest Team in Town

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Pictured: Kai Tamashiro from Sarasota Paradise during the game against Swan City. Photo courtesy of Sarasota Pardise.

There’s a new team in town, Sarasota. Well, maybe not brand new as the team began play in 2023, but still new and exciting enough to be worth paying attention to. The Sarasota Paradise, a pre-professional soccer team playing in the United Soccer League Two (USL2), made landfall last year and kicked off their 2024 campaign this May. Now sitting at 2-1-0 on the season, the Paradise won their home opener against Swan City FC at Sarasota High School last Saturday and are gearing up for their next contest on Sunday against Weston FC.

Sarasota Paradise is the brainchild of Swedish entrepreneur Marcus Walfridson, founder and president of the club and co-founder of the owning company, Audigr Group Inc. Walfridson, a former semi-professional soccer player and long time coach in Sweden and Norway, came to the United States around 2019 with the dream of building his own soccer program. Due to the chaos that was the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 however, the creation of Sarasota Paradise–named after the idyllic environment of the region–was delayed for a number of years. Business partners switched, investors hopped on and off, but eventually the team was able to break into USL2 in 2023.

As a member of the 128 team USL2, Sarasota Paradise operates in a unique environment. The USL2 is a developmental league. Above it slots USL1, a fully professional league, followed by the USL Championship and eventually, Major League Soccer. Just last year, the Paradise’s own Hosei Kijima, was selected 17th overall in the MLS Draft. The Paradise have even more of a local connection with their roster–nearly 80% of their players have to be sourced locally from the area, creating a pipeline of soccer development for the community. “My vision for the club is to have it be a centerpiece of the community where people come together and unite,” says Walfridson. “It’s a club that should represent everyone in the community. It’s here to make our city better.” 

 

Pictured: Kai Tamashiro from Sarasota Paradise during the game against Swan City. Photo courtesy of Sarasota Pardise.

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