Rocco Commisso: 'We're not doing a great job'

The New York Cosmos held their first Media Day since Rocco Commisso bought the team and moved it to Coney Island. The former Columbia University star and telecommunications executive might be new to the pro game but he has some very strong opinions about the defending NASL champions, but also promotion-relegation and the national team.

The Cosmos -- and the NASL -- were on the verge of folding when Commisso bought the team in early January, assuring the league went ahead for 2017 with eight teams.

“When I took over as chairman, we had quite a few problems,” he said on Tuesday at 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge. “We didn’t have a team, a stadium or employees. In less than 70 days, we have made great strides to be able to say we are going to have a good opening day. We have a phenomenal group of young men who can take us to defend our championship that we won in the past year.”

That 2016 championship, their third in four years, did not bring the Cosmos the right to earn promotion to MLS, a sore subject for Commisso.

“Did anyone see the [Minnesota United] game where they lost [6-1]?" he said of the former NASL club's loss to Atlanta United in its second MLS game. "This is exactly what I’m talking about. Because they paid $100 million with another $150 million for the stadium, Minneapolis got to the MLS, right? Well, the Cosmos won the [NASL]  championship. In other countries, all over Europe, South America, so on, the Cosmos should be moving up to the MLS, not Minneapolis. I think Minneapolis was the eighth-ranked team in the [NASL] last year out of 12. We were No. 1.”

Commisso brought up the examples of the Cosmos' two New York rivals, New York City FC in the Bronx and the New York Red Bulls, across the Hudson River in New Jersey.

“The guy that bought New York City FC [Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan], interestingly enough, he also bought Manchester City," he said. "The guy that bought the Red Bulls [Austrian Dietrich Mateschitz], he also has a team [RB Leipzig] in Germany, right? He’s accepting and he’s done very well by the way. [RB Leipzig] moved from the third to the second to the first division. It worked out very well. Why couldn’t it work out the same way here?

"In my opinion, that’s probably the No. 1 reason why American soccer has failed professionally in this country. This is an administered game, an Americanized type of game and American rules as opposed to international rules of how soccer should be played. It’s an international game. This isn't like I won the World Series of baseball.”

Commisso is unhappy with the structure of American pro soccer.

“Let me just say this," he added, "that all the teams that made investments in Europe, including the most recent ones: the Chinese, the Indonesians, the Americans, and England and so on, that they all understood how the game was played. Nobody guaranteed that, as a result of making a multi-hundreds of millions of dollars of investment, like the guys trying to buy Milan, that they need not get relegated tomorrow.

“Typically, when you go into business like I do, you accept competition as being part of the game and you have to compete. Here, competition is administered by some god up there that says it is what it is and that’s the way it’s going to be."

But the new Cosmos owner didn't end there. He also took on the state of the U.S. national team program.

“Today, we do not have a national team that I am proud of," Commisso said, noting the USA has not reached the semifinals of the World Cup since 1930.

“So here we are, 80 years later, and we still haven’t had a team, a professional team, a professional, national team that could go out and say, ‘We’re the top 10, the top five.’ I mean, what kind of crap is that?"

Commisso went on to lay out the USA's record since 1930: six wins, or one every 14 years.

“Everybody’s bragging what a great job we’re all doing with American soccer," he said. "No. We’re not doing a great job. I could go in and in. I know a lot of stuff I want to talk about, but not today. There are a lot of people out there that still want to shut me down. I’ll protect the team, I’ll protect my reputation, but sooner or later, I will have my say as to what I see for the future of American soccer, professional, American soccer in this country.”

38 comments about "Rocco Commisso: 'We're not doing a great job'".
  1. Mario Cesarone, March 22, 2017 at 9:52 a.m.

    Oh my Lord what a blowhard. Is this guy for real? He wants to get into MLS with a team on a $500K budget? And he's pissed off when it wont happen? Delusional, I though we would finally see a change in the Cosmos mind set when he bought the team. Apparently same old nonsensical spouting.

  2. Gus Keri, March 22, 2017 at 11:52 a.m.

    Apparently, this man doesn't understand any thing about soccer or economy. NY Cosmos is in a real trouble now. I am worried for them.

  3. Ben Myers, March 22, 2017 at 1:40 p.m.

    Commisso may be a blowhard unwilling to accept the current financial realities of American professional soccer, but he is 100% right about promotion-relegation. Instead of doing what the rest of the national soccer powers do, USSF and MLS have this half-baked playoff system modeled after the other pro sports in this country (pro deflategate football, basketball, baseball and hockey), all to hype attendance and fan interest. Sorry, but for MLS, this does not seem to work too well, and the teams at the bottom of the table near the end of the season have nothing to inspire their play. It makes no sense at all to run a 34-match season just to find out the qualifiers for the playoffs.

  4. Footballer Forever replied, March 22, 2017 at 6:04 p.m.

    @Ben Meyers-

  5. Footballer Forever replied, March 22, 2017 at 6:07 p.m.

    @Ben Meyers Don't be that (Pro/Rel) guy.

  6. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, March 23, 2017 at 10:01 a.m.

    Pro/rel makes sense down the line but not yet. A team like Cosmos playing in a minor league baseball stadium that maybe seats 8k should be in MLS? Nope.

  7. Liane Sims replied, March 23, 2017 at 11:16 a.m.

    But Minnesota who came in 12th place in 2nd division the year before should? Or the Fire with all their setbacks just because they have a bigger stadium?

  8. Ben Myers replied, March 23, 2017 at 12:11 p.m.

    Over the years in my low-level coaching experience, I have taught attacking skills and tactics about 95% of the time, the rest being reserved for all about defense. Why? Attacking is the most difficult and time-consuming to teach. Give me a capable attacking player who is motivated to play defense and I'll develop a good defender very quickly.

    The US of A does a mediocre job of developing capable attacking players who can compete at the world level. MLS is the same. World-class players who have come from MLS include Donovan and Dempsey and maybe some day, Jordan Morris. Anybody else? Name another American goal scorer playing in MLS and capable of finishing goals at the world level? Wondo? Nope. Jozy? Nope. Anybody else whose name escapes me? Now name a world class MLS midfielder who distributes the ball well. Not Bradley. Deafening silence.

    The entire player development system in the US is problematic because it is a hodge-podge, not a system. MLS is at the top of the US system, and it suffers because it does not and cannot in its current incarnation provide a means to develop top-level players.

  9. Liane Sims replied, March 23, 2017 at 1:50 p.m.

    Ben, I've been saying that for years. We focus on all the wrong things. Structure is a great sale now a days because youth soccer is dominated by the pay to play parent whose kid probably is not creative and skilled and doesnt want the poor creative player to outshine his, especially if his money is what gets that poor kid's scholarship paid for to play on team. That's really what all this is. Academy is no different. It is quite naive to believe that Mls Academies are trying hard to scout and develop their own area's top talent at no cost to them and see how nonMls pay to play DA clubs play them toe to toe. In no other country would you ever ever see that. Not a coincidence. Wake up people.

  10. don Lamb replied, March 25, 2017 at 12:15 a.m.

    Liane - What you and Commisso are not thinking about are that the real reasons why MN United got into MLS are because a. geographically, it's in an area where the league needs to grow, and b. there is a strong ownership group there that is pretty much guaranteed to be able to help the league grow in the way that it needs to regarding fiscal strength. Promotions/Relegations (at this stage of MLS's existence) makes zero sense. There need to be another 15 markets that have been developed to first division level or LEGIT second division level before P/R can be seriously considered.

  11. Liane Sims replied, March 26, 2017 at midnight

    Why? According to who or what research? Just because you say so? Saying it doesn't make it true. Fact is there is no way of knowing.

  12. Liane Sims, March 23, 2017 at 2:26 a.m.

    Agree 100% with this man. So according to all of you, he is delusional because he believes in a system that works in the entire world economically, socially, culturally? Minnesota gets into Mls after being that low in 2nd division Nasl losing 6-1 in one of their first games and we should feel proud of them for what? So you are all for buying your way to the top by kissing the ring? Disgusting is an understatement. Wouldn't that $500,000 budget increase in a pro/rel system with added sponsorship deals that would probably jump all over a team moving up like the Cosmos?

  13. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, March 23, 2017 at 10:02 a.m.

    Basing a lot on one game aren't you? Believe me, if Cosmos played in MLS they would lose plenty of lopsided games too. The gap between MLS and NASL is large.

  14. Liane Sims replied, March 23, 2017 at 11:15 a.m.

    So I'm basing alot on one game but you are dead on in your assumption? The difference is Cosmos won the 2nd division. They deserve a shot at 1st. Simple. More so than 12th place Minnesota. To add to that, I would think Cosmos would get a hold of more money from sponsors after earning their way to 1st division and therefore get to buy better players. He correctly states that the competition format, non, is what hurts this country. Dead on.

  15. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, March 23, 2017 at 12:27 p.m.

    I don't really see why we are "hurting". As recently as 21 years ago we had no professional league and our development system was basically random local clubs, high school soccer and NCAA ball. We are developing the infrastructure we need and are heading in the right direction. Other countries had decades long head starts. It takes time to catch up. I think there are easily 40 markets in the US that can support a professional team in time and once we are at that point we can have a 20 team first division and a 20 team second division with pro/rel. Cosmos had their chance at MLS, thought they were too big for it and now they are suffering due to that foolish decision. They, along with the rest of NASL, will likely be out of business in the next year or two.

  16. Liane Sims replied, March 23, 2017 at 1:43 p.m.

    Epl has such structure and almost nothing to show for it development wise. Should a country be happy to have a rich league that doesnt really improve our youth development? We must be careful in being so complacant with just having a big pro league and thinking owners will do the right thing especially when they pretty much are not accountable for anything. Not even winning.

  17. Liane Sims replied, March 23, 2017 at 1:45 p.m.

    And spare me the "of course they are accountable by the fans" talk. A team like Chicago can continue to make bad decisions and not develop players for another 10-20 years and the worth of that team will continue to rise as it has done so far in last 10-20 years. Thats garbage.

  18. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, March 23, 2017 at 1:55 p.m.

    To go from no pro clubs in existence at all (i.e. pre-MLS) to dozens of clubs, many of which have thriving academies producing great players (the ultimate goal) takes time. We're on the right path though.

  19. Bob Ashpole replied, March 23, 2017 at 6:15 p.m.

    @Liane Sims. Think about:

    Maximizing MLS's television markets

    MLS single entity organization selling franchises

    MLS is still expanding.

  20. Bob Ashpole replied, March 23, 2017 at 6:17 p.m.

    Forgot that formatting does not transfer. Here is a version with commas
    Maximizing MLS's television markets, MLS single entity organization selling franchises, MLS is still expanding.

  21. Liane Sims replied, March 26, 2017 at 12:05 a.m.

    Tv rights expanding was bound to happen with any 1st division structure at this point in time. Soccer is simply more popular at all age levels and it has little to do with Mls. The most watched leagues are still in Europe and Mexico.

  22. Liane Sims, March 23, 2017 at 2:27 a.m.

    I am now a Cosmos fan and will buy their gear.

  23. Wooden Ships, March 23, 2017 at 9:39 a.m.

    Agree with his comments. I do respect those with the opposing views above, but it does reinforce my belief that the contemporary (modern) soccer patron in this country provide the greatest barrier to our true immersion in the world game. We just can't accept that we are wrong.

  24. frank schoon, March 23, 2017 at 3:17 p.m.

    Guys, it would nice to have a system that shows teams mobility from one division to another. But we are not at this stage, by a long shot. First of all I'm already a little weary of all the team expansions in the US(like we have talent galore to fill all the slots for the new teams. Where are they going to get these players to fill the new teams from the college ranks...come on ,Pleeze!! Whatever we have(talent wise)will be watered down because of all the teams. The only real talent so far we are seeing are a bunch of near 40year old farts coming from Europe and who are actually still looking good by just employing their game intelligence. Talking about developing talent , GIVE ME A BREAK!! I have yet to see one player developed here that is so good he can start for Barcelona, ManUtd, Bayern, etc. And I"m not sure(speaking in terms of economics/investment) having more divisions are the answer. In Holland we use to have 3divisions, now we have one Eredivisie and one below which is made of semipro teams , and reserve teams of the Eredivisie. . And to fill those stadiums you need good players to draw crowds.

  25. Bob Ashpole replied, March 23, 2017 at 6:23 p.m.

    With a little imagination: Howard, Friedel, Donovan, Ramos, and Pulisic. At least they were good enough to make the first team. Keep in mind those teams play so many competitions that they have more than 11 "starter" quality players.

  26. frank schoon replied, March 24, 2017 at 9:57 a.m.

    Bob, you forgot to add Kasey Keller..That would be 3 goalies ,who all 3 have been the most successful. Pulisic because he's used as a sub at Dortmund.
    Yes, Ramos and of course Reyna and ,I forgot his name but is now an announcer for espn and played in Germany. But really that is not a whole lot. I think the league is expanding much too fast and it will only dilute the quality. The MLS should play it smart and must make sure that every team has at least 3"good" foreign players on each team, situated so that one plays in defense, midfield and front line. This is done to further improve the American players who don't have the chance to go to Europe and learn but at least are learning and developing from better and older players with experience. That all teams play a 4-3-3 which is very easy for fans to identify, the style of play, employing wing and attack minded.

  27. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, March 24, 2017 at 11:22 a.m.

    Having all teams play the exact same formation is unrealistic, boring and stifles tactical development and strategy. MLS is a real league with different teams trying to do different things. For that reason bringing in "good" foreigners and making sure one is a defender, one is a midfielder etc. is neither realistic nor desirable. Also, Pulisic is not just a sub for Dortmund, he has started many games this season, including arguably their most important game so far, against Porto in the UCL where he scored the winner on a finish everyone lauded but you said was easy.

  28. Bob Ashpole replied, March 24, 2017 at 5:09 p.m.

    FPGN, out of context your comment about using 1 system makes some sense, but Frank was suggesting 433. 433 is extremely flexible which allows a coach to adapt it to suit the players and coaching objective. 22 teams could organize it 22 different ways. The only reason I see for not playing a 433 is if a team doesn't have any wingers.

  29. frank schoon replied, March 24, 2017 at 5:29 p.m.

    BOB, You are exactly right. I'm glad you see what I mean and explain it, for I just don't have the patience to explain the obvious. You either understand soccer or you don't. As a matter of fact most teams thanks to Cruyff play 4-3-3 or 3-4-3 all over the world. . In order to attract american soccer fans to stadiums the MLS has to play exciting attacking soccer and that is done with a 3man front employing wingers. What is so neat about this is that although the system (on paper is the same) the players are different ,attacking wise and in their nuances with the ball. Since we are still in the baby shoes of soccer so to speak we need foreign input like I said , in each line to help the American players and guide them for many of these players don't have a chance to go to Europe and learn and in this way they are receiving important advice.

  30. frank schoon replied, March 24, 2017 at 5:33 p.m.

    Bob, read what Landon Donovan states in "what they are saying" read the San Francisco Chronicle' in the full interview

  31. frank schoon replied, March 24, 2017 at 5:43 p.m.

    Bob ,another reason why we the preference for 4-3-3 is that it is easier to play another when needed. A player who brought playing in a 4-4-2 system as an outside halfback will have difficulty playing a winger in a 4-3-3 system. For a wingers has much different skills and techniques and is more specialized. But a winger who plays in a 4-4-2 as an outside halfback will have a much easier time of it for it doesn't require the specialized wing skills. That is why being brought up in a $-3-3 system is really the foundation for it covers all positions

  32. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, March 25, 2017 at 2:30 p.m.

    Frank, the problem is that what you are saying is not at all obvious. Explain your thoughts better so we can understand what you're talking about.

  33. frank schoon replied, March 26, 2017 at 9:52 a.m.

    FPGN, I would suggest to not read what I write because you ,no doubt, have difficulty understanding what I say for I basically write for those who have a better understanding of the game than you do. And I'm certainly not going to waste my time in trying to explain first the basics and elaborate on the simple stuff for you....

  34. Bob Ashpole, March 23, 2017 at 6:26 p.m.

    Frank does have a good point about expansion diluting quality of play. MLS has not forgotten which is one reason that their expansion was closely controlled. A healthy size domestic player pool would see high quality play in the lower professional divisions.

  35. don Lamb replied, March 25, 2017 at 12:25 a.m.

    That is an absurd point! Has the level of play dropped from last year to this year? No, it's improved greatly because EVERY team has improved it's roster with the significant increase in money that they have to spend on players. This is going to continue being the case, and ATL UTD has shown that an expansion team can actually be a revelation for the entire league.

  36. Nick Daverese, March 25, 2017 at 1:56 a.m.

    Actually The stadium in Brooklyn holds 12 thousand people and yes it does not hold enough to support a mls team. People in Long Island thought the rough riders should be an Mls team when they won the usisl championship that place only held 5 thousand people a game. Not enough to go into the mls.

    My old club the Brooklyn Italians had a 100 thousand dollar budget when we played in the super division could we play in the Mls ridicules. But the mls gladly took all our players that could play. There have been guys who thought people in the area could invest in a mls club like the Green Bay packers invested in the Green Bay packers American football team in Wisconsin. Now that is a pipe dream.

    I do invest in things but never a sports team. Actors are looking for investors for low budget movies. I did that I hit one big a comedy that made me laugh out loud called all saints day a 50 thousand investment never released in movie houses made me a million. No one else made money but it got them exposure. My son's friend got three other movies because of it. My best living friend was in good fellas is always looking for investors he has been in 80 movies since then. One movie was Dances with werewolves :)

    I like investing in building construction here in Brooklyn you get 15 to 20 percent on your investment easy money. Sports teams you lose money.

  37. Nick Daverese, March 25, 2017 at 5:12 p.m.

    Women think pass first before dribbling and beating people because they can't move like a man can. Speed when you use it to beat people 1v1 or even 1 v2 you win games doing that.

    Beating people also creates more space for team mates.

  38. frank schoon replied, March 26, 2017 at 10:02 a.m.

    Nick, that is the one salient feature of soccer not much discussed ,beating an opponent by dribbling CREATES SPACE, AND NUMERICAL SUPERIORITY. Instead dribbling has often given a negative connotation.
    So often a coach yells at a kid to pass the ball as if passing the ball in youth soccer has such a great success rate. Just about every or every other pass is bad, but somehow dribbling is seen so often as a negative quality. And to me dribbling is the first one the major and important quality of development a youth has to have FIRST.

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