August 2010

Reviving the New York Cosmos: A Paradoxical Dream?

This article was originally published at We thought Eric Beard did such a nice job we’d repost it here. Enjoy !

The New York Cosmos, a club that was dominant in the North American Soccer League (NASL) with stars such as PeléCarlos AlbertoFranz Beckenbauer, and Giorgio Chinaglia, but stopped functioning operations in the mid-1980s, has officially been revived. However, the club won’t be making a comeback in Major League Soccer just yet, but rather a group led by the English businessman Paul Kemsley, with Pelé as honorary president, has acquired the club’s name and on Sunday announced its relaunch at halftime of the final of Copa NYC at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

“Our plan has several phases, but if you fast-forward, it’s our aspiration to play at the highest level in this country, and that’s MLS, ” said Joe Fraga, the executive director of the new New York Cosmos. “And we are serious. We want to make it relevant again; we want kids to know what the Cosmos were and are, to bring the soccer dream back to the city. Pelé is our face, and you couldn’t do better than that, not just for the Cosmos, but for soccer in general. Our goal is to respect history and the legacy, and make it relevant now.”

The New York Cosmos were the best team in America back in the day, but they were also a reason why the league as a whole was not sustainable. This appeals to the perhaps shrouded idea that the Cosmos have become a franchise as idolized as it is despised. So as glamorous as the legacy of the New York Cosmos is, there is every reason why an American soccer supporter will want to be wary of the legacy and the ideals of the Cosmos organization.

Of course, this provides a paradox for true football fans. The New York Cosmos valued the best brand of football at all costs, but that mindset, in itself, could very well destroy the game’s steadily growing popularity in the United States. Football in America is still very much in a precarious state, so how can the New York Cosmos ensure that they benefit Major League Soccer without destroying it in the process?

The NASL, known for attracting the world’s best as well as being ridden with rampant structural instability, has truly been the antithesis of Major League Soccer, as league commissioner Don Garber values fiscal responsibility above all else to push the beautiful game forward in the states. But Pelé made all the right moves in his first formal interview about the “new” New York Cosmos.

“This is fantastic,” the Brazilian legend said. “We are working very hard to bring the beautiful game back to New York, and now we finally have people who support us. It’s been almost two generations; in 1977 I came here and now this. The game has grown and is growing, and what is important to us, P. K., the Cosmos is to support the base, the young players. Looking back, we know mistakes were made in the league, but that happens everywhere in the world. But the football is the reality, and one day I hope to be happy to see the New York Cosmos playing the Red Bulls in the championship game.”

The New York Cosmos will focus on the game played by the youth. How refreshing. They’ll stay away from the Ronaldinhos and Messis for the time being as they formed a partnership with the 60-year-old Queens-based youth club BW Gottschee. The Cosmos Academy will include sides from under-12 to under-18 and will be part of United States Soccer Development Academy. The academy will be managed by the former MetroStars player Giovanni Savarese.

So a top class youth academy with eyes set on going head to head with their crosstown rivals, the New York Red Bulls? That’s ambitious to say the least. The Red Bulls, ironically enough, now has the most star-studded squad in Major League Soccer, as Rafa Marquez is set to join up with the likes of Thierry Henry and Juan Pablo Angel.

Beyond the recent big names, the Red Bulls also have produced arguably the best American talent out of all MLS clubs in their youth system. Strikers Giuseppe Rossi and Jozy Altidore are the creme of the crop.

The Cosmos’ devised plan for success seems to have already been carried out doesn’t it? Have the Cosmos already been revived under a different name?

To an extent, but not exactly. The Cosmos movement has evolved, and with this evolution has sprouted an idealistic structure. Nothing is more idealistically honorable than the approach to be a club with core values of social responsibility and community.

According to the Cosmos’ official website:

As part of what will be an extensive corporate social responsibility strategy, The New York Cosmos will also work closely with the City to enable New York’s schoolchildren to play soccer more often, and more easily, by providing equipment and facilities.

Pelé emphasized that “the return of The New York Cosmos will inspire footballers in this country, and embrace people around the world who love this beautiful game as much as I do.”

But what about the millions in America who don’t need to watch Pelé to enjoy the beautiful game?

Don Garber put the positives of The New York Cosmos extravaganza in the perspective of the league as a whole saying before the MLS All-star game against Manchester United in Houston, ““We are very focused on trying to have that 20th team in New York — a second team in New York, a rival for the Red Bulls. We have got a lot of work to do to achieve that. We may or may not achieve that, but that is our goal and our main focus for the 20th team. That would be pretty cool.”

That would be cool. But in a convenient location that allows so many people to have access to the new Red Bull Arena via public transportation, which Thierry Henry himself has taken, does cool cut it? An inner-city rivalry is coveted in all sports, and football is certainly no exception as city-wide rivalries flourish throughout Europe. But with untapped markets such as Miami and Atlanta that leaves the entire Southeast region of the country isolated from top-flight football, it seems all but fantastical to focus on The Big Apple, or the borough of Queens in particular, the place where the Cosmos would ideally want to settle down in with a stadium of their own.

It would be nice to witness Pelé in the stands to watch Thierry Henry and company travel to Queens to play the Cosmos in their inaugural first match as the new New York Cosmos. But beyond hopes and dreams, are these thoughts worth entertaining? Or are they simply seducing a generation into a time that was, in reality, tempestuous?

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Eric Beard is the Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of “A Football Report”. He can be found on Twitter at @afootballreport. They are also on facebook. Follow them !!!

Eric Beard

  • Neil W. Blackmon

    Great stuff, Eric. You raise several good points– the most pressing to me being the lack of top-flight soccer south of Washington DC. In fact, other than the Atlanta women’s league– you either have to drive to Charleston to see the Battery or Tampa to see the Rowdies (glad they’re back) if you want to see men’s professional soccer in the Southeast. Something should be done about this.

    Atlanta isn’t a great pro sports town. It’s a fine baseball town, and it is the mecca of college football– but that isn’t a fair reason to withhold soccer from the A. As you know, it is a great soccer town. A drive around the city on any given Friday or Saturday during the World Cup proved this, and I think the 40 plus for Man City-Club America support that argument. Plus, one of the bigger soccer blogs in the country calls Atlanta home, at least for the time being. So I think that should be on Garber’s radar before we re-up on the Cosmos. Let’s hope Don Garber is thinking the same way.

    Again, really enjoyed this writing.

  • daniel

    actually, the red bull arena has terrible NYC access. i went there last month to see tottenham, and it took a miserable 3 hours to get back to brooklyn. nyc proper should have a team (though i’m in agreement with your southern team first argument). the red bulls belong to new york only in name. they are a jersey team.

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