Skip to content

What now for the New York Cosmos?

Aug 4, 2013, 4:05 PM EDT

Fort Lauderdale Strikers v New York Cosmos Getty Images

The New York Cosmos’ long-awaited return was always likely to garner significant attention, and the sellout crowd of 11,929 at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium ensured that, for one night, the hype would be justified. But after an event fueled more by nostalgia than any quality reported on the field, a difficult, uncertain future has finally arrived for the reborn club. As the buzz from their opener dissipates and the realities of second division soccer set in, the Cosmos are going to have to do more. They’re going to have to augment their history to establish relevance with a new generation.

That’s what’s striking about the Cosmos’ revival. For the most part, the hype around the team has been churned by the generation that experienced the original franchise’s success. Among younger fans — the demographic soccer is leaning on to try and achieve its mainstream success — the Cosmos brand just isn’t as strong. With some of the most prominent voices in the previous generation now occupying places in the media (people like Shep Messing), the message has been laid on a little thick. We’re being told the Cosmos are big — much bigger than their league or standing suggests — but we’re not seeing a proof of concept.

That’s not to say the Cosmos’ return isn’t big in other respects. That such a storied brand is making its competitive return is historic. But their time between competitive games was almost 30 years. The youngest people who have a relevant memory of the NASL are already into their late 30s and 40s. This might literally be your grandfather’s soccer team,  with the contention that a team is automatically relevant based on brand alone reflecting another New York-based team: the Harlem Globetrotters.

As the Globetrotters show, in sports you just can’t get by on marketing alone. You can perhaps transcend athletics and go into show business, but if you’re going to be a major sporting brand, you have to be relevant in product (on the field) and in context (a compelling league). The New York Yankees, Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Cowboys – they wouldn’t be their sports’ biggest brands without huge success in their sports’ biggest leagues, and as the toil of women’s sports as shown, the start power of people like Mia Hamm aren’t enough to make their teams or leagues significant. Team success and league profile are necessary.

Both of those are problems for New York. For an NASL team, the Cosmos have put together a compelling roster, though they’re unlikely to find major success in the fall season. The league’s more established clubs just have too big start for Giovanni Savarese’s team to be an overnight success, a struggle that bled through the cracks of their 2-1 opening night win against Fort Lauderdale. As Strikers’ head coach Günter Kronsteiner implied after the game, the Cosmos aren’t actually that good, yet. And until they can dominate second division clubs, they’re unlikely to find relevance on the New York sporting landscape.

Then there’s the league and that problematic second division existence. Unfortunately, in turning his back on MLS in July 2012, New York owner Seamus O’Brien has probably capped his club’s potential relevance, particularly with the full weight of Major League Soccer behind the 2015 arrival of New York City FC. Whereas at one time you could see the Cosmos being incorporated into Major League Soccer, now their existence is firmly tied to second tier. Owning a significant portion of the league’s marketing rights, O’Brien has a vested interest in the NASL’s success, while slow changes in league management and urged by the Cosmos mean more crucial decisions are originating in New York, not the NASL’s Miami offices.

In a recent interview with the BBC, Cosmos COO Erik Stover outlined the club’s vision. Is it to be promoted to MLS, he was asked? Not necessarily. The team needs to improve, though they’re not intent on doing it by outspending their NASL opposition. Training facilities, stadium, youth academy – there were a number of parts to the club that need to be put in place. But eventually they want to win U.S. Open Cup. They want to get into CONCACAF Champions League. They want to play in Mexico, where Stover noted Major League Soccer teams have yet to have relevant success. Is a potential appearance in a Club World Cup within the grandiose vision of this restart?

Still, let’s conjure a hypothetical and consider a world where the New York Cosmos reestablish their relevance. In that world, they’d then be a viable competitor with Major League Soccer, if not on a league level then certainty to the relevance of NYC FC and New York Red Bulls. At that point, doesn’t Major League Soccer start fighting back? And when that happens — when MLS starts meaningfully competing for fans, marketing with their new competitor in mind, competing for players — how do the Cosmos win that fight? What is a conception of success where they don’t have to spend themselves into the ground to gain traction against MLS?

Anything’s possible, but after yesterday’s opener, the Cosmos have reached their first summit. Inevitably, there’s going to be a dip in interest, one that will test their staying power. But lacking on-field success or league relevance commensurate with their self-manufactured hype — with so much of their relevance still tied to an incarnation that expired 29 years ago — it’s unclear what a viable end game is for this old team’s new addition.

Perhaps if he’s lucky, O’Brien can establish a new brand, entice a buyer, and recoup some of what he’s put in. That’s a more realistic goal for the Cosmos.

Latest Posts
  1. CONCACAF Champions League Roundup: New York makes victorious debut

    Aug 27, 2014, 1:02 AM EDT

    concacaf champions league logo

    Red Bulls win their full tournament debut, while Club Améric takes a valuable point on the road.

  2. PST’s Major League Soccer Power Rankings – Whole New World Edition

    Aug 26, 2014, 10:14 PM EDT

    kyle_beckerman_fabian_castillo

    The rankings have had a big four — LA, RSL, Seattle, and Sporting. That group makes way for two new teams at the top of the PRs.

  3. Samuel Eto’o signs two-year deal with Everton

    Aug 26, 2014, 8:20 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 5.16.32 PM

    Three-time Champions League winner adds depth to Roberto Martínez’s attack.

  4. Van Gaal appeals to supporters’ belief after Manchester United’s League Cup loss

    Aug 26, 2014, 7:31 PM EDT

    louis_van_gaal AP

    United boss asks fans to withhold judgment on his team’s disappointing start.

  5. League Cup Roundup: Manchester United embarrassed by Milton Keynes, 4-0

    Aug 26, 2014, 6:04 PM EDT

    jonny_evans Getty Images

    Red Devils hit a new low, with three other Premier League clubs bowing out in the competition’s second round.

  6. UEFA Champions League Roundup: Zenit, Porto through; Celtic sunk by late Maribor goal

    Aug 26, 2014, 5:06 PM EDT

    hulk AP

    BATE Borisov and APOEL Nicosía are also into the group stage, with the five final spots to be decided tomorrow.

  7. Landon Donovan will get U.S. farewell, to be called up to face Ecuador

    Aug 26, 2014, 4:27 PM EDT

    One of Donovan;s finest moments came for the USA at the 2010 World Cup. His last minute goal sent the USMNT through to the last 16. Getty Images

    U.S. Soccer is doing right by its biggest icon. Donovan will be called up for the Oct. 10 game in Connecticut.

  8. PST’s Major League Soccer Player of the Week: New York’s Thierry Henry

    Aug 26, 2014, 4:14 PM EDT

    thierry_henry Getty Images

    For the second time in seven weeks, Thierry Henry takes home our weekly honor.

  9. The danger in Jermaine Jones to New England: perceived league chaos

    Aug 26, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT

    Bv7WpAlIMAER8e9

    Why the Jones to New England move would’ve been a whole lot better with a little more transparency. Or a lot more transparency, if you like.

  10. Jermaine Jones unveiled in New England, quips that “I like to win”

    Aug 26, 2014, 2:44 PM EDT

    Bv_Aa5AIcAEBfhI

    New England got a whole lot better on Tuesday, and the Revs new Designated Player will immediately cause opposition problems in MLS.

  11. Official: Manchester United breaks transfer record, signs Di Maria

    Aug 26, 2014, 1:58 PM EDT

    Bv-8S8vCcAAWAVe

    Angel Di Maria has cost Manchester United a British transfer record of more than $98 million from Real Madrid.

  12. Fantasyland: Week Two leaders, three names to monitor

    Aug 26, 2014, 1:12 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    There’s still time to join up for a year of Fantasy Premier League fun via Yahoo’s free game, but don’t wait too much longer: the points are getting racked up!

  13. Arsenal, Man United sigh as Benatia heads to Bayern, Manolas to Roma

    Aug 26, 2014, 11:58 AM EDT

    International Champions Cup 2014 - AS Roma v FC Internazionale Milano Getty Images

    Both Kostas Manolas and Mehdi Benatia have been pegged for the Premier League all summer, but the former will head to Roma to take the Bayern-bound latter’s spot.

  14. UEFA Champions League playoff round preview: Oh, those second legs

    Aug 26, 2014, 11:27 AM EDT

    Arsene Wenger AP

    Tuesday and Wednesday bring 10 second legs for 20 clubs hopeful of the group stage windfall and another step toward glory.

  15. Real Madrid rolls out black kits for UEFA Champions League (Is that a dragon?)

    Aug 26, 2014, 10:47 AM EDT

    https://twitter.com/realmadriden https://twitter.com/realmadriden

    Real Madrid goes to extremes, with only a touch of pink dotting their UEFA Champions League gear.

  16. Men in Blazers podcast: Spurs, Toffees and Chamakh’s brutal hair

    Aug 26, 2014, 10:21 AM EDT

    meninblazers

    The Men in Blazers are back for the second week of the Premier League, roaring through the league with breakneck speed and, dare-we-say, banter (not the Moody/Mackay type).

  17. Lampard joins Gerrard in int’l retirement; Who will man middle for England?

    Aug 26, 2014, 9:25 AM EDT

    England's Frank Lampard shoots at goal during their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match against Moldova at Wembley Stadium in London Reuters

    Injuries to Adam Lallana and Ross Barkley further complicate things for Roy Hodgson with a looming Euro qualifier against Switzerland next month

  18. WATCH: PST Extra — Balotelli transfer will ease pain of Suarez loss

    Aug 26, 2014, 8:56 AM EDT

    Italy v Croatia - Group C: UEFA EURO 2012 Getty Images

    Joe Prince-Wright joins Jenna Corrado to talk up the return of Mario Balotelli to the Premier League.

  19. Tuesday transfer rumor roundup: Atletico, PSG stars to Premier League?

    Aug 26, 2014, 8:45 AM EDT

    FBL-FRA-LIGUE1-MONTPELLIER-LILLE Getty Images

    Toby Alderweireld and Adrien Rabiot join Salomon Kalou and Alex Song as names linked with the Premier League through the rumor mill.

  20. Report: Manchester United agrees record fee of $98.9 mil for Di Maria

    Aug 26, 2014, 7:53 AM EDT

    FBL-ESP-LIGA-GRANADA-REALMADRID Getty Images

    Di Maria is reportedly set for a medical this morning at Old Trafford, and will be unveiled by United shortly afterward.

Featured video

Balotelli will boost Suarez-less Liverpool