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The NY Cosmos are back, but should they be the MLS’ next expansion team?

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The New York Cosmos have officially returned to the professional ranks of American soccer… and this time it’s not just for a brief merchandising blitz.

This is a sports franchise that carries a great deal of baggage, some filled with memories of how great it once was, and many others filled with how swiftly it all went wrong. It’s almost impossible to mention the team’s prime years with Pele and co in the late 70’s, without also remembering the massive collapse the club expeditiously experienced in their absence. I personally can’t speak from my own memory, as I’m sure a few of you can, but investigating the historical “black box” of the original Cosmos’ demise still paints a painfully clear picture.

The 70’s incarnation of the NYC soccer franchise, while exciting and magnificent, was also foolishly founded upon the draw of just a couple players. Only in its infancy as a professional club, the Cosmos had struck attention-grabbing gold in their signing of the most famous player on the planet in Pele… but when the brilliant Brazilian left (and Beckenbauer and Alberto soon after), the Cosmos were all of a sudden a top shelf brand with absolutely zero top shelf talent (Chinaglia aside). They had completely neglected the importance of building a solid foundation for sustainable success, and when the famous players left there wasn’t just a mere dip in play/interest… there was absolutely nothing, no one to fill the void. It not only led to the Cosmos’ rapid competitive and financial ruin, but the NASL’s failure as a top-tier league too.

This is why the newly renewed New York Cosmos, headed by chairman/co-owner Seamus O’Brien, must take gradual steps. There is so much potential with the immense television market they inhabit (New York City is about as good as it gets in the American sporting world), that a direct move to the MLS, while enticing, could have been another over-accelerated rise to prominence. Building through the second division NASL, which they will join next year, should allow them to construct from within, build a base, and be competitive in a much more sustainable fashion (without the expectations of immediately living up to their former glory). There is no doubt a team located in NYC, especially one with the already strong Cosmos brand name, will be very high on the MLS’ list of probable expansion teams. In fact, I’m sure it tops it… but allowing the new NASL Cosmos franchise to grow will be mutually beneficial.

Besides, we’ve already seen what the MLS looks for in potential expansion teams. Just take a look at the Vancouver Whitecaps, Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders, they all worked through the NASL, and when they were ready to handle the greater expectations and financial burden of the MLS they were brought up. The MLS seems much too wary of damaging their image and legitimacy to promote a team rashly without thinking of the possible consequences.

So unless the NY Cosmos come out next year with an unexpectedly talented roster and a strong youth academy to support it, they shouldn’t even be in consideration for the MLS’ 20th expansion spot. They must prove, unequivocally, that they are a long-term franchise before we can start placing them above other (and right now much more deserving) lower division teams like the San Antonio Scorpions, Minnesota Stars and Orlando City.

Of course, they do continue to wield the most coveted media market in the USA, so even if they are mediocre to disappointing at their initiate, they will undoubtedly remain a major talking point in the MLS’ future no matter what… but for sustained success to prevail, growing into themselves first will be crucial.

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Comments (12)

  1. NYC don’t deserve another MLS team. I love to see it go to Miami.

    • That Miami doesn’t have a team yet is mad. The market down there is massive. But I suppose that could be said for Atlanta, Phoenix, Las Vegas.

      To give NY another one now seems to go against the MLS plan for expansion.

  2. Miami had an MLS team that went bankrupt due to attendance. I was fortunate to see the Cosmos play from Peles first game on Randallls Island (between, Beonx,Queens and Manhattan) to some of their last games; the Cosmos were extremely profitable, they did not collapse, the league around them went bust, in a span of 2 years they expanded to place where there was never any pro team let alone a soccer team, such as Vegas and Hawaii ( and remember at the time they had no TV rights) and cable did not exist. I’ve seen numerous Cosmos games with over 75,000 in attendance in Giants Stadium. The biggest mistake that the owners will make is to build a too small stadium; Queens NY is the most diverse neighborhood in the world with about 168 nationalities and Brooklyn NY is second with about 164;the demographics have changed The Cosmos will be at least on par with the Seattle Sounders but I believe much bigger in success; All the South & Central Americans and Europeans and Africans are starving for quality fotbal. Christian Gallus, Binghamton NY

  3. Orlando Lions need a bump up to the MLS. They’re doing the right things on the field, won the USL pro league for 2011, and also have setup a proper development youth program.

  4. No more Expansion. Remember Tampa Bay? More coverage on the Tele. More Recognition. Major network advertisement & exposure. When we can balance our players,salaries,&seasons, to even out,compare,& coincide together; then the mls should expand. Where is Clint Dempsey? ManU? Liverpool? Chelsea?

  5. Seeing as the Timbers and Sounders, two of the previous expansions teams, have already developed one of the best rivalries in the country, I have high hopes for the Cosmos.

    • Cosmos vs the Red Bulls eh mate?

      All sorts of wordplay with this rivalry just like Portland – Seattle

      If a tree falls in the woods, does it still make a sound? bahaha

  6. i’m tired of ‘expansion’…

    waiting for the league to pull their heads from their asses and enact relegation/promotion is getting tiring. if they don’t do it soon, americans like me will never watch mls and it won’t survive. i do not consider the mls legitimate in any way, shape, or form.

  7. With all due respct, Football would never gain that popularity in US. I mean, come on, they call a game “football” which is hardly played with foot……

    • Come on now, does there really need to be so much made out of what name it gets called? To say it will never gain popularity is false.

      I’ve lived here for 10 years and the interest in football/soccer has blown up. The average attendances for MLS games are way up, even higher than attendances for Brazilian first division games.

      The fact that the US is slower to take to football doesn’t mean there needs to be any arrogance over the use of a name, football soccer etc.. It’s the sport that matters no?

  8. Great point @pipper promotion relegation would give the league an immediate rise in interest level for every game, not just playoff games.