ONEAlmost two weeks ago, Jürgen Klinsmann, the coach of the US men’s national team, spoke out in favor of introducing a promotion and relegation system in American football. It has been discussed since the beginning of the league: The commercialized, close-knit safety net of the MLS versus the concept of the worst teams, which, as in many European leagues, are punished for poor performance on the field.
In discussions like this, it can be argued that no team has been taken as an example more than the New York cosmos – which was reported on Monday to be on the verge of signing former Real Madrid star Raúl. The Cosmos was once the free donor of the football boom of the 70s and 80s in the USA, the Pelé, Franz Beckenbauer and Carlos Alberto in The City attracted league, qualitatively behind the MLS.
Since their self-branded “reboot” in 2013, the Cosmos, who won the flagship NASL Soccer Bowl in their first season last year, have continued the rhetoric that their main goal is – before the MLS speaks, before they sign famous stars like in good old days – is to build a solid football team. The club continues to focus purely on the NASL.
It is this vision that has led some to view the second season of The Cosmos’ Second Coming as the difficult reboot second album. Given its great past and such a successful immediate restart, some are beginning to wonder: How does the new New York cosmos measure success?
When Manchester City and the New York Yankees bought the last MLS slot in New York, two and a half months before the Cosmos returned to NASL, the realization struck that the legendary franchise would not be mentioned as a realistic addition to America’s premier football league at least 2020, then the MLS will reevaluate its expansion priorities.
For the foreseeable future, the success of the Cosmos on the field will be measured on two levels: the dominance of the NASL and perhaps winning the US Open Cup.
The former, a league that was restarted in 2009 (kick-off 2011) and has won a record five times by the original Cosmos, is played in two segments: a spring and an autumn season. Using a system suitable for exciting end-of-season action, the winners of each half and two other seeded teams go into a four-team playoff; the overall winner takes the Soccer Bowl title, just like in the original NASL. (The Cosmos won last season’s fall period confidently, losing only one in 14 games before taking the title against Atlanta.)
This season, the Cosmos should conquer a place in the playoffs – but the performances on the field were mixed. After failing to build on the success of 2013 and win this year’s spring title (won by Minnesota United), it now looks like the “Boys in Green” will make it into the playoffs as third or fourth seed.
“We always have to fight for championships on the field,” said Erik Stover, Cosmos Chief Operating Office, via email. “We’ve had serious injuries and modest results this year, but things seem to be back in time for the championship.”
This drop in form has led to falling attendance at Cosmos games – although one could argue that this might have been expected given the eagerness to relaunch last season, Pelé appearances and the club’s signing Marcos Senna.
In addition to the league, the second success marker for Senna and Co. is the US Open Cup, a knockout tournament that is now in its 101st edition. As with the FA Cup, this historic trophy allows contestants of all standards across the country. The competition, the club said in the past, gives Cosmos an opportunity to prove that they are the best football team in the country, despite the MLS’s title as America’s elite football league. This is still their goal.
In their first tournament appearance since the introduction of the Cosmos Mark II, the team managed a memorable 3-0 win against city rivals New York Red Bulls in front of more than 9,000 home fans. They were eventually defeated 2-1 in the fifth round (Final 16) by MLS club Philadelphia Union – a game in which the Cosmos looked like the better team for most of the game.
“The NASL did very well in the Open Cup this year and we should have gotten past the Philadelphia game if it hadn’t been for some very bad officials,” said Stover. “That happens in sport, so we just turn around and keep working hard.”
Winning the US Open Cup would also allow Cosmos to qualify as one of four United States representatives in the Concacaf Champions League and compete against the best in the continent without kicking a ball in the MLS.
Talk of such a success, however, has to wait another season. And it’s one such talk that based on the results alone could suggest that this season is a sticking point for the Cosmos’ ambitions on the field, should they not follow another crown after last year’s NASL title. They’re clearly the biggest name in the league – with the greatest history – so why not have such high expectations?
But maybe that vision of success is a bit skewed, thanks largely to the players who wore the green jersey more than 35 years ago. People think “cosmos” and imagine glitz, glamor and grandiose. Almost instinctively, one sees the shouts of the past from Chinaglia before the tap-ins of the present. (Let alone the balance sheets.)
What if the current regime’s off-field plans for the current cosmos are as much a mark of achievement as the on-field razzmatazz of the past? Really, they are still a team in their infancy. The goal, the club said earlier, is not to immediately mimic the wild spending and risky but instant success of the original Cosmos; Year on year growth is key.
Less than two years after their return to competitive use, the Cosmos appear to have laid a solid foundation for what appears to be a well-managed back room structure. A US $ 400 million, privately financed stadium is to be built on Long Island and will accommodate around 25,000 fans. (Current attendance at Cosmos averages around 5,000 at the University of Hofstra’s James M Shuart Stadium.) Stover, who admitted the process took a little longer than he would have liked, said he had proposed the property at Belmont Park is “by far the greatest economic impact excluding taxpayers’ money.”
This private funding will come from funds that are very close to the hearts of the clubs – they are supposed to be linked to the Middle East. This could help explain how the cosmos has had sponsorship deals with big names like Nike and Fly Emirates, despite not playing in America’s top league. It also means that if they want to get back to the wasteful spending of the old days, the finances may be there when the competition arrives.
Take the expectations of putting up World Cup winners, too, and you could even argue that the rebooters did a decent job putting together a Kosmos roster extremely appropriate – albeit one – for the level the find is at little strong – seems to be itself. The likes of Danny Szetela, Carlos Mendes, and Hunter Freeman seem solid, US-born signings; Senna, though never seen as a standout player during his time in Europe, was a wise choice as the club’s main hallmark, maintaining stability in the center of the park for the past two seasons; and up front, where the team has perhaps struggled the most, the Spanish striker Raúl is as good as committed for the start of the next season.
And then there’s the decision to join the NASL yourself: to some, like the cosmos, it’s still a mystery that will continue to ask questions about its long-term goals – to challenge the MLS or not? NASL, in a format that Kosmos said would suit them, has no salary cap or designated players like the MLS; hypothetically, there’s nothing stopping a team from following the model of building a dominant franchise like Warner Communications did with the original Cosmos.
However, before such a team emerges – be it the Cosmos or not – the best the New York team can possibly hope for is a sense of rivalry in a league that, like them, may be taking the Icarus approach and wondering how high the height can be reached so quickly.
“[Having our current-day expectations based on the past] will always be the case for us and we look forward to the challenge, ”said Stover. “We will always honor the past and work hard every day to bring the club back to where it was.”
So it’s this strange concoction – historical names associated with young brands; Goals based on the past; and success in the field is the instinctive marker – which makes it a little difficult to tell apart the accomplishments of Cosmos Chapter Two.
Judge Cosmos on their accomplishments and, albeit incorrectly, based on what Pelé’s team has done in the past: taking the NASL title this season (and beyond) should perhaps be the least thing fans of the famous Franchises should be expected as they also have the financial resources to do so. It might not even be too much to ask for a touch of style in the process.
If you look at the success of the cosmos off the field – maybe not as a “cosmos” at all; instead introduce themselves to “New York’s two-year-old NASL franchise” – and the team – with a solid financial base, football-specific stadium proposals, a strong squad for their level and a championship title already in their pocket. be adequately prepared for the NASL-or-bust approach over the next six years.
“The process is going to take some time and we feel like we’ve done well in a short amount of time,” said Stover. The measurement of success – on and off the field – remains realistic. No matter how hard it is to forget the past.