The New York Cosmos are making a comeback to the MLS.
On July 12, the Cosmos were introduced as the 10th franchise, returning to play in the North American Soccer League (NASL) in 2013. At the same press conference, they made it no secret of the fact that their aspirations were to return to the top flight of American soccer.
On the same day mlssoccer.com reported that MLS Commissioner Don Garber was looking to put a second team in New York City. He mentioned the New York Cosmos as one potential team, but did not delve into the topic any further.
All signs point to the Cosmos looking to be that team.
In 2009, The London Daily Mail reported that former owner, G Peppe Pinton, had sold the club's image rights to Paul Kemsley, former vice president of Tottenham Hotspurs. During his tenure, Kemsley, hired an All-Star front office, including former United States player Cobi Jones and former Cosmos legend Pele.
Yet no one has been more vocal about the club's direction than former French international Eric Cantona, who was named director of soccer in January 2011.
Cantona has quickly become the face of the Cosmos resurgence, making no secret of his objectives for the club, as reported by Leander Schaerlaeckens of ESPN.com in a 2011 article:
Cantona hopes to have the core of a first team emerge from the academy in five years' time and a side that is entirely homegrown not long after that. Lofty aspirations, but he's thinking even bigger. "The [goal] will be for the United States to win the World Cup with Cosmos players," he said. "I think in 20 years' time. Maybe before."
Schaerlaeckens also reported that the Cosmos already have three academy members serving on the U-17 national team, serving good on Cantona’s aspirations.
If there is any man for the job, it’s Cantona. And if there’s any team to bring prominence to the MLS, it’s the Cosmos.
In an age where social media and technology have become tantamount in communicating, they have also given teams the capability to brand themselves worldwide, garnering a much wider audience.
Take Manchester United for example. Forbes ranks them as the second-highest-valued team brand in the world. The team estimates that it has 333 million supporters from Asia alone, as well as racking up over 27 million likes on their Facebook page.
The Cosmos have the history that has already made them world famous. Back in the late '70s, they were the hottest ticket in town, averaging over 47,000 fans a game at one point, while fielding legends such as Pele, Franz Beckenbauer and Giorgio Chinaglia.
And they have continued that legacy into the 21st century with an aggressive marketing campaign. Since 2009, the Cosmos Copa NYC has brought soccer to the streets of New York through a World Cup style tournament between local “national teams” of New York.
They also have begun to sell team apparel, which includes having released a line inspired by the 1977 NYC blackout, tailored by English sportswear provider Umbro.
And if that wasn’t enough, they have taken their cause overseas, having played Manchester United in Paul Scholes’ Testimonial Match, fielding world-class players such as former Italian national team captain Fabio Cannavaro and former American international Brian McBride.
The Cosmos lost 6-0, but they had gotten what they were looking for—the world's attention.
The MLS needs the Cosmos. The Cosmos represent American soccer, having changed the way it was played and they way it was received. Professional soccer in America was non-existent. After the Cosmos’ five NASL championships, high attendance records and high-profile status, America began to take notice.
When the NASL folded in 1984, the MLS sprung up only 12 years later, trying to pick up where their predecessors left off. And to MLS's credit, the league has grown significantly, expanding to 10 cities, as well as ranking eighth in average attendance amongst worldwide soccer leagues according to a tweet by MLS Vice President of Communications, Dan Courtemanche.
But with the Cosmos, the MLS will achieve another stratum of success. Getting a team that is known worldwide will raise MLS’s profile, and at the same time, it will allow the New York Cosmos to once again relive the legacy that created American soccer.
Follow me on twitter @ardsep