MLS says yes to Yankees, no to Cosmos

By Ridge Mahoney

So, we can finally toss this absurd notion of the Cosmos joining MLS out the window. Hooray!

Through a unique partnership with teams from two different sports, Manchester City and the New York Yankees, MLS has forged an alliance by which an expansion team, New York City FC, joins MLS. Included in the joint venture is a stadium project that has yet to be finalized, but along with the announcement came confirmation the team will start its MLS existence in 2015 whether or not that project is completed.

New York City FC will play MLS games somewhere early in 2015. That’s less than two years away, which is a shorter time span than it’s taken the Cosmos to play a real game since its ballyhooed launch in 2010. First envisioned as a touring all-star team, and brazen enough to sign the likes of Cobi Jones and Pele and Shep Messing and Eric Cantona as ambassadors, the Cosmos were soon linked to MLS though league officials steadfastly remained noncommittal.

It took a while but the Cosmos bandwagon gradually lost momentum. That’s what happens when there are no staff members to sell tickets, or players to excite the fans, or games for them to watch. The Cosmos designed and advertised uniforms and golf shirts without ever putting an actual player into them.

After a re-organization and departure of several executives, the Cosmos got down to the business of being a soccer team instead of a marketing phantom. Former MetroStar Giovanni Savarese is the head coach, ex-Red Bulls managing director Eric Stover is the chief operations officer, and the Cosmos will start play in the current NASL this summer.

As confirmed in a teleconference call with media members Tuesday, MLS has taken a radically different path. League commissioner Don Garber, Manchester City CEO Ferran Soriano, and Yankees president Randy Levine outlined ambitious plans for a joint venture that includes a stadium project as well as the 20th MLS team. The Cosmos were not mentioned.

Yet as recently as last year’s MLS Cup, there were references in news stories about the Cosmos joining MLS as its 20th team. Many such mentions came from the English press, dispatched to cover the David Beckham angle if nothing else. One representative went so far as to ask a question couched along the lines of “David Beckham’s league.”

If perception is reality, misconceptions can seem pretty real as well. Fans and journalists seemed incapable of letting the Cosmos go, to acknowledge there wasn’t any real substance behind the grandiose plans and glittering names attached to the modern iteration. MLS has its shortcomings and erred many times, but never did it tilt in the Cosmos direction as a viable New York option even as the months and years dragged by since Garber’s initial confirmation of the league’s determination to place a team in the city proper.

A week or so after Beckham helped the Galaxy win its second consecutive MLS Cup, reports surfaced in England that Manchester City owner Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan had been in contact with league officials regarding a New York MLS franchise. A month later, in January, came word that MLS had registered several domain names along the variations of New York City FC. Not until Tuesday, though, did a segment of the soccer universe finally accept an MLS without the Cosmos.

On Tuesday’s conference call, naturally, a question came regarding Beckham’s involvement with the New York team. Though he has an agreement with MLS to buy in at a reduced price of $25 million, he cannot buy into a New York team at that price. Soriano stated adamantly there’s been no contact with Beckham regarding this venture. (With the man who brought Beckham to MLS, Tim Leiweke, set up in Toronto, that might make sense.)

Misconceptions, like old habits, die hard. The Cosmos were glamorous and unique and absolutely of a bygone era. MLS isn’t nearly as sexy, but like a devoted partner long on commitment, it’s ideal for the long haul.

6 comments about "MLS says yes to Yankees, no to Cosmos".
  1. Gak Foodsource, May 21, 2013 at 11:59 p.m.

    The 100 million plus investment in MLS is a tremendous coup for MLS and Garber, and the fact that he is going to get this done in NYC is the cherry on top. It will water down talent in the league in the short term, but should set the league up for tremendous success going forward. However, Garber and MLS are still talking about the wrong things. "It's going to give our league exposure and credibility in many ways that we were able to do with the signing of David Beckham." Why are we still talking about marketing, credibility, exposure, and David Beckham? Why aren't we talking about how that 100 million could go a long way towards our youth development programs, which have the potential to dramatically improve the quality of play in our domestic league? Why is marketing and brand management more important than youth development and quality of play? Put the product on the field and we won't be hearing about exposure and credibility ever again.

  2. Randy Vogt, May 22, 2013 at 12:20 p.m.

    The Cosmos might be from a bygone era but so too are the Brooklyn Dodgers and New Yorkers still have much affection for both. The Brooklyn Nets adroitly referenced the Dodgers for their first, very successful season in Brooklyn. While New York City FC's name is a combination of the names of New York Yankees and Manchester City FC, both organizations are obviously interested in extending their brands. Do you think the team will possibly wear blue? But the announcement of New York City FC leaves many questions as to where they will play. Just as the Cosmos seek a permanent stadium by horse racing's Belmont Park. I certainly hope that both teams are successful and can work together. As the Cosmos were always my favorite sports team, it would have been great if their name made it to MLS.

  3. Bill Morrison, May 22, 2013 at 4:37 p.m.

    I hate to be a downer but the NY area barely supports one team now; I don't see the logic in two teams competing for the same fans. Let's be realistic, MLS barely registers on the national sporting conciousness, TV ratings are pretty dismal; at least the ratings that I've seen on these pages. Wouldn't MLS be better served by placing teams in smaller markets and growing their base like Seattle & Portland have done and growing the sport where it needs to grown at the grass roots level?

  4. Andres Yturralde, May 22, 2013 at 4:45 p.m.

    Gak Foodsource, you are my tall glass of water today, thank you very much. I couldn't have said it better myself. It's the same old story--the same old dudes in empty suits.

  5. Robert Kiernan, May 23, 2013 at 12:04 p.m.

    Well where to start, I suppose as a former die hard COSMOS supporter - I used to hit the road to watch them play when they were not playing at home - I never believed this new "Entity" was ever going to truly be what was the COSMOS, under the salary cap and the single entity system that MLS continues to employ, it simply could NEVER be the side of "Galacticos" that it once was. But the NAME certainly continues to have legs and that was the reason this dog and pony show was put into motion.
    Now the next question is will the member sides of the current NASL - Officially a D2 league under FIFA guidlines - possibly push the "unrestrained" spending issue that the MLS seems to be obsessed with keeping very low? Will enough of these sides be around when the next MLS Players Association Contract is being negotiated to pose a threat to MLS's total control of the Sport in North America in a few years and give the journeymen players who as of now are forced by circumstance to sign their second contract at reduced wages another option? Things are going to HAVE to change with MLS rather soon and by not picking up the COSMOS entity they clearly hoping it will peter out and go away, but it also could spawn a second "D1" league if only in spending... this looks to be something that really isn't being talked about yet, but is a real possibility and could force changes that are yet to be seen on both leagues. ... (ICE)

  6. Robert Kiernan, May 23, 2013 at 12:23 p.m.

    As to Bill Morrison's comment about building up smaller markets, well that is all well and good, I would think both from a local talent position and from Anheiser-Busch's long term support, St. Louis should have been considered long ago as a town that could and should support a side and MLS is missing out on a regional rival for Chicago and Kansas City in dodging that town, add in maybe Minneapolis and the midwest would be strengthened. But please remember that both Seattle and Portland, and for that matter Vancouver, all have had some sort of version of their teams now for a good 35 years now, that these are "Mature" soccer markets and repeating that sort of fan success elsewhere would be a greatly different story. The Simple fact is that MLS as it now is structured is having trouble even retaining its base Journeyman players once they are in their mid 20's, they are tempted to go off and play for better money in front of Scandinavian Farmers and Fishermen or more and more often signing with Mexican League sides, the lack of being able to straight out find and sign players has meant Mexican sides are reaping some of our better young prospects each year, look at the Xolos if you want a good example of a side growing at MLS's expense. Until the INDIVIDUAL CLUBS can find, sign and develop and if they wish SELL players, there will continue to be little incentive for them to put much time and effort into improving their player stock, they still will be highly dependent on cast offs and free transfers from other established league and 22 year old Collegiate "Rookies" who are a good four or five years behind their respective peers in most any league anywhere else. Until this aspect of how MLS can put out a better level of "Product" on the field, well hype aside, the League will continue to be decent but mediocre... Marketing isn't always a bad thing, but at some point you have to admit that there needs to be a certain amount of meat in your Meatloaf... and hamburger helper just isn't enough all by it's lonesome... (ICE)

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