The NY Cosmos were once the biggest brand name in American soccer, known to the world for its talent and success. Sadly, much like their aged superstar Pele, this rebooted franchise will have to be content looking back to ancient accolades. You can only rely on the past for so long until fans start to ask about the future. This new model of the American soccer fan is barely keeping their fanship domestic in the United States, let alone in the NASL. So when NBC Sports bought the rights to broadcast the EPL every weekend morning, fans across the country lined up to pick their favorite British team. Viewership for top flight EPL can and has outscored a Seattle Sounders v LA Galaxy matchup.
So where does the former best brand in American soccer stand? These days it seems to be on crutches. Remember, we’re talking about a club that in 1977 averaged 47,856 people in attendance. A club that drew just about 80,000 people in a playoff game against the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers. If you had 5,000 people show up to a Strikers game today that would be a resounding success.
Presently, the average home crowd for NY hovers around 5,000 people. A far cry from their prime in the 1970s and 80s. Take note, we’re talking about soccer. Some professional baseball teams weren’t even pulling in those types of numbers.
Let’s get back to the fairy tale for a second. If the Cosmos won’t be joining MLS any time soon, what’s the next step? Wait for a promotion/relegation system to be put into place and hope the NASL becomes the second division league? Even if Major League Soccer agrees to promotion and regulation, and that’s a BIG if, it could take 10 years or more to implement.
The Cosmos could be sold off to a different owner and moved out of state to a city on the verge of entering MLS. Would the brand still hold the same value if instead of the NY Cosmos we referred to them as the San Francisco Cosmos? Or the Sacramento Cosmos? This is probably even less likely than promotion/relegation being implemented.
Cosmos COO Erik Stover would be quick to point out they are dwarfed by their current location at Hofstra University. While it doesn’t help to be playing on a collegiate field, I’m not sure that is the only reason attendance is low. Moving to Elmont and opening their dream 25,000 capacity stadium is all well and good but are they capable of filling the seats?
Perhaps we should adjust our own expectations and vision of the NY Cosmos. Maybe we should treat the past as just that and stop hanging on to glories no longer viable. Forever a cautionary tale to other clubs who aspire to join MLS. If you really want to know the direction of the club, look no further than a quote from Erik Stover after the deal with MLS fell through over brand evaluation:
Yeah, I feel it too.