Once in a Lifetime, the Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos." The Cosmos were the first truly global all-star team, and a harbinger of what the top clubs of England, Spain, and Italy are today in terms of stockpiling top soccer talent from from the four corners of the globe.
For 20+ years since the team closed shop, the Cosmos' name, trademark, and trophy case were owned by Peppe Pinton, the "caretaker" of the Cosmos legacy.
However, late last summer, former Tottenham Hotspur director Paul Kelmsley purchased the rights to the Cosmos name from Pinton, with plans to "rechristen the team as a traveling array of all-stars, playing matches around the world."
With another MLS season almost upon us, a small NYC-based supporters club hoping for the "return" of the team, and nothing but radio silence from Kelmsley, here our my thoughts for what the "New" Cosmos might be.
Will the Cosmos be the Harlem Globetrotters?
The idea of the Cosmos as the greatest barnstorming football club on the planet is intriguing. As proven by last year's "Summer of Soccer," there is a precedent for filling stadiums from coast to coast to watch high-quality sides play each other as well as MLS clubs. However, would fans turn out to see a New York-based team of sometime players take on Man U., Chelsea, Real Madrid, Barcelona, AC Milan and the like when some of the Cosmos would inevitably come from those same European giants? Because if these new Cosmos aren't a global all-star team (a la 1978), then why would folks come to see them? And just how would the Cosmos stock its roster? After all, the top clubs won't release their players. Even if they did, given the unreasonable schedules that top players must endure now, just how many matches for club and country can these highly-paid footballers play and remain effective?
Will the Cosmos be MLS NYC 2?
MLS has long made known its desire to have another club in the NYC area. It's fair to say that the legacy of the NASL Cosmos has negatively impacted the ability MetroStars/Red Bulls grab hold of the soccer consciousness of the metro area (along with miserable on-field performance & management). A New York Cosmos in MLS would raise lots of questions, though. Once again, for former fans, the Cosmos were success defined on the pitch. As all MLS fans know, the global all-stars concept can't happen in the financially prudent league. Also, where would they play? For all the griping about Red Bull New York's base in New Jersey, there isn't currently a suitable soccer-specific venue on the East side of the Hudson. Even the delayed USL-1 club "FC New York" had planned to play it's games at Long Island's Hofstra University (where the NASL Cosmos first called home). The Wilpon family, before the Madoff scandal, had considered building a soccer-specific stadium adjacent to Citi Field, but that project remains at the concept stage. A return to the Meadowlands would undoubtedly please the NJSEA, but the Red Bulls just emancipated themselves from the artificial turf and third-tenant status at the stadium there. Why would MLS return? Why would Red Bull allow it territorially? It's doubtful that RB would consider a groundshare. If the Cosmos enter MLS, fans of the club will only be cheering a retro logo, because on the field, the product would not be the same.
Will the Cosmos join a lower-level league?
One way that a reborn Cosmos could dominate an American soccer league is to join whatever 2nd division soccer will look like in 2011. With the recent rift between the USL and the "reborn" NASL, a mildly-stocked Cosmos could runaway with whatever paltry league exists next season. With successful 2nd-level clubs Portland, Vancover, and some say Montreal soon moving up to MLS, a club with a decent-sized budget should be able to run roughshod over the Austins, St. Louises, Rochesters, and Miami FCs of the world. The same questions remain, however: Why would folks pay to see an inferior version of the Cosmos play? Against inferior competition? Where would they play? How can this work?
Whichever way the Cosmos return, however, they'll be no shortage of intrigue around the club. Rumors persist than former Cosmos Giorgio Chinaglia and Shep Messing will have roles with this new team. With the Red Bulls about to christen their jewel box of a stadium with Pele's former club Santos FC, the time seems ripe for the New New York Cosmos to share their vision for the future of America's greatest soccer club. We're watching with bated breath.
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