Gridiron icons like Don Shula, Dan Marino and Tim Tebow are synonymous with football in the Sunshine State. Pro and college football dominate the sports scene in Florida in the fall and early winter.
Home to the Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jacksonville Jaguars, Florida gives fans the chance to watch NFL football games in warm, sunny weather even in October and November.
College football passions run deep in Florida with highly successful programs like the University of Florida Gators, Florida State Seminoles and Miami University national championships, the Seminoles have won three and the Hurricanes have captured five. Other colleges with top-flight Division programs where you can experience the game with all of the colorful pageantry are the University of Central Florida in Orlando, University of South Florida in Tampa and Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. The Miami Dolphins and the Hurricanes began playing in a new setting in 2016 after the SunLife Stadium underwent a US$500-million facelift and changed its name to Hard Rock Stadium.
At the end of each season in December and early January, Florida hosts several major college football bowl games, including the Miami Beach Bowl at Marlins Park in Miami; Boca Raton Bowl and Capital One Orange Bowl at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens; St. Petersburg Bowl at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg; Russell Athletic Bowl and Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl at Camping World Stadium in Orlando; TaxSlayer Bowl at Everbank Field in Jacksonville; and Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. On Monday, January 9, 2017, Raymond James Stadium will host the NCAA National Championship game.
SOCCER IN THE SUN
Florida has quietly become a haven for great professional soccer. Orlando City SC of the MLS, founded in 2013, plays to record-breaking crowds at Camping World Stadium. Led by stars Kaka and Brek Shea, the team has a loyal fan base as well as fun tailgating parties before the games.
Last year the Orlando Pride of the National Women’s Soccer League arrived on the scene and created great excitement with superstar Alex Morgan.
Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities to see the sport in Florida. The state has three North American Soccer League teams the Tampa Bay Rowdies, Fort 5 Lauderdale Strikers and the Jacksonville Armada and an American Premier Soccer 8 League team, the Boca Raton FC.
ICE, ICE BABY
With two NHL teams in the state, Florida offers fans superb opportunities to see top 2 notch hockey on their visit. The Tampa Bay Lightning, a playoff team in 2016, plays their games at Amalie Arena in downtown Tampa. Farther south near Fort Lauderdale, the Florida Panthers, which were founded in 1993, skate at the BB&T Center in Sunrise. Both teams have had their moments in the limelight as the Lightning won the Stanley Cup in 2004 and the Panthers played in the NHL finals in 1996.