Home NASL & USL More NASL & USL Despite NY Cosmos move, NASL has no vision of going toe-to-toe with MLS

Despite NY Cosmos move, NASL has no vision of going toe-to-toe with MLS

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The New York Cosmos didn’t get their dream date, but chose the suitor who wanted them the most.

On Thursday afternoon, the announcement came out of the NASL Board of Governors meeting in New York — that the Cosmos, which had been operating as an entity without a league, will join NASL as an expansion team in 2013. The Cosmos got to the point where it felt that there was no way in to MLS as an expansion club, and moved to Div.-2.

Seamus O’Brien, Chairman of the New York Cosmos, said in a release. “We are delighted to return to our historic home with the NASL and bring the New York Cosmos back to the playing field. We are committed to running the franchise with the highest possible standards on and off the field, and look forward to putting together a competitive and entertaining team our fans can be proud of.”

With the Tampa Bay club repatriating its Rowdies name, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers already in place — and FC Edmonton trotting out its old-NASL Drillers kit as a third jersey — it’s clear that the new NASL is marketing hard on the retro-attraction of the old NASL. And there was no bigger brand than the Cosmos, which brought Pele to North American club football.

“The team owners are thrilled to welcome the Cosmos back to their birthplace and home, the NASL,” said Aaron Davidson, the head of the NASL Board of Governors. “The Cosmos ownership group’s decision to join the NASL is the ultimate validation of our efforts to bring back the league which laid the foundation for soccer in North America. We look forward to respectfully honoring the legacy of the NASL and Cosmos of the 1970’s – 1980’s as we grow today’s NASL and play our role in driving the further development and maturation of soccer in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean.”

“This is the product of a long process,” Commissioner David Downs said in an interview with The 11. “This process began before I was commissioner, and before the current owners of the Cosmos were the owners of the Cosmos. It has taken at least two years.”

There is talk that there could be more fallout from the deal — in terms of what it could mean to existing franchises. Remember that NASL and Traffic Sports have stakes in a number of U.S. teams, and having a new team with an investor in place could hypothetically allow the league to look at cutting one of those markets where it or Traffic is over-leveraged.

But, at the same time, having the Cosmos in the party — having the biggest media market in America on board — may make investing in Minnesota or Carolina more palatable.

“There is definitely pressure,” said Downs. “Now, with a new propsective team and owner in the league, we are no longer obligated to continue to support a team in order to keep us at an eight-team league. If we want to keep Minnesota and the Traffic-operated teams in the league, we would want investors. And, having the Cosmos may help with that. It may give us a leg up and options going forward for our league.”

FC Edmonton general manager Tom Leip said he is thrilled that supporters will get a chance to see the Cosmos on the Clarke Stadium turf next season.

“The Cosmos brand was the biggest in NASL. We saw that there was a window of opportunity to make a deal, and we took advantage of that opportunity. And we know that, because New York is the largest media market, it is key for us to pursue a national television contract. We see that MLS doesn’t have a major national TV position.”

But, just because the Cosmos came to NASL, and that there is talk of a national television deal, it doesn’t mean the NASL is ready to try and be anything but a Div.-2 league.

“No, we aren’t comfortable with financing a Division-1 league,” said Leip. “Our owners are not interested in moving up a league. We have a lot of respect for the the kind of financial commitment MLS owners have made to create Division 1, and we certainly don’t want to tread on their territory. And, certainly the Cosmos only came to us after every road to MLS had been exhausted.”

Downs echoed that sentiment.

“Really, there is no change in our overall strategy. This is one of those unique cities, this city I am walking in, that has 20 million people in a 50 to 60 mile radius. It can definitely support two teams (MLS and NASL) and we aren’t really competing for the same fans.”

Downs said that the league and the Cosmos have a strong idea of where they want to play in 2013, but will hold off on announcing that until the time is right.

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One Comment

  1. seathanaich

    July 13, 2012 at 4:12 am

    It’s great for North American soccer to see Cosmos back fielding a team. The MLS needed to divorce itself from the NASL legacy in 1996, but, as several other teams have shown, the time to bring back the good NASL names was passed several years ago.

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