The bottom line for any sports franchise, the true determining factor of success is the simple old metric: Butts in Seats. In the hotel business, this is known as "heads in beds." Without an historically-strong squad to promote, the club is banking on the allure of Red Bull Arena to drive season ticket sales. For the New York Red Bulls, as they prepare to launch their $200 million temple of wonderment, advance-butt-in-seat reservations have been a little slow at the higher price points.
We're still clearly in an economic downturn. Some of the people applying for work at the RBA Job Fair clearly illustrate the point. Last night came the word that the remaining available $3,000 club seats at midfield in the RBA West building would be on sale for 2010 at the cut-rate price of $695, sans access to the fancy-exclusive Club Seats lounge and other full-price benefits. For the club, it's a chance to make for a more attractive environment. Remember the empty seats at New Yankee Stadium this year? For fans, the rate cut means an easier opportunity to get the best seats in the house. A fantastic move, frankly that hopefully will get some well-heeled butts in those nice pleather seats.
So I've been doing the podcast thing for a year or two now, showing up on shows like MatchFit USA (My first podcast foray) Winning Ugly, SoccerLens, Inside the Six, and Around the League (formerly The MLS Show). It finally dawned on me that there's a need out there for more and more Red Bulls content. So. I reached out to some of the best Red Bulls bloggers on the web, Dave Martinez from The Offiside, and Nat Baker at American Soccer News.
I'm pleased as punch to announce Seeing Red! The New York Soccer Roundup. Each week during the upcoming MLS season, we'll bring Red Bulls fan an independent view of what's happening on and off the Red Bull Arena pitch.
The New York Cosmos' impact on soccer in the New York metropolitan arena can't be debated, even 26 years after the five-time NASL champions ceased operations. For fans of a certain age in the area, the Cosmos were soccer in New York in the late 70s and early 80s, as so poignantly captured in the 2006 documentary "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.
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.
US Men's National Team unofficial graphic designer extraordinaire PRC has just the thing for you to get ready for the 2010 World Cup. These campaign buttons are her creations and offer support for Charlie Davies, Jozy Altidore, Kenny Cooper, Sascha Kljestan, Rico Clark, and a mystery Yank! They can be had for all of seven bucks & will help her get to S.A. to cheer on our boys. Do yourself a favor & pick them up today!
I'm a media industry veteran and soccer fanatic since the days of the NASL. I've lived in and around New York City most of my life, and support the New York Red Bulls and the US Men's National Team.
My email: firstname.lastname@example.org