SmallScale Arguments: The Fault in Our Cosmos

Take a look at how people generally feel about the New York Cosmos, all taken from tweets in the past few weeks.

The New York Cosmos, as far as I’m concerned, unfortunately, they’re no longer a soccer team


Good morning to everyone except the New York Cosmos


The only thing worse than karaoke is the New York Cosmos.


And, by far, the worst insult of them all.

New York Cosmos: the Comcast of soccer teams


Wow. So the social media-issued verdict is in. People hate the Cosmos. And Comcast. Not all people hate the Cosmos, of course, but quite a few do. Why exactly is that?

Well, there’s certainly a stigma on their fearless leader, Rocco Commisso. Commisso is an outspoken proponent of US soccer outside of MLS and the USL system. His Cosmos were the major players in the NASL while it still existed, and now are searching for a new home. They currently face the struggle of finding a league that will accept them, but before we delve into why that is, we need to figure out who Commisso is, and who the New York Cosmos are.

First, we’ll retrace our steps with Commisso. He’s not just a soccer guy. He’s one of the wealthiest soccer guys out there. He’s an Italian-American business mogul who owns Fiorentina, a top-tier soccer club in Italy, as well as Mediacom Communications. He’s reportedly worth $4.8 billion, and he says what’s on his mind.

He took over the club as it was on the brink of its second death, after the NASL had folded once again and the Cosmos were bleeding money and without a place to play.

Being a New York Italian and a billionaire, many people find him abrasive. Maybe he deserves that stigma, maybe he doesn’t. But all we need to know for now is that the stigma exists, whether it should or not.

Now, for a look at the history of the Cosmos. They’ve been around for quite some time now – since the 1970s, in fact. They really and truly put themselves on the map with their signing of world legend Pele in 1977. Largely due to his presence, they attracted an average of almost 50,000 people to their matches one year. Not 10 years later, though, the Cosmos weren’t even playing anymore. Why the quick turnaround?

Part of the problem was that everyone tried to become the Cosmos. Every team in the NASL was doing its best to keep up with Pele-level signings, and they spent more money than what was feasible for a small American soccer team. Thus, the NASL’s members kept folding due to loss of money, and eventually, the league went with it. It took the US’s successful World Cup bid in the mid-1990s to bring a professional league back to the States.

But if you’re reading this, you’re probably aware that the Cosmos didn’t join that new league, Major League Soccer. It’s probably an understatement to say that there are a myriad of reasons why MLS has a negative connotation, especially the lack of a promotion and relegation system.

However, the Cosmos still wanted to be a part of the league at first. They were dedicated to making the club a top-tier team, but they squandered an opportunity to join when it first started and from then on, MLS had its reasons over the years to deny the Cosmos a spot in the league.

The new incarnation of the NASL came and went, as this article from that timeframe in which it all fell apart depicts. The club’s revitalization efforts appeared to be through.

A billionaire owner who we’ve already been introduced to by the name of Rocco Commisso enters the scene and injects loads of money into the club. He also brings with him a new mindset for the Cosmos: they should seek a better way to the top of American soccer, one that didn’t involve MLS.

Now, however, Commisso and the Cosmos have hit just about every last wall of MLS’s domination of the USSF’s pro soccer system, and they’ve had quite a few doors closed on them due to the power of the institutions they stood up against. This upcoming year, they’re in danger of being league-less once again.

They won’t be accepted into the USL system, because they’ve broken ties with MLS through Rocco’s lawsuit and outspoken distaste for the way the league is being run. USL is directly affiliated with MLS, and thus would balk at the idea of admitting the Cosmos. And Commisso would probably do the same at the idea of joining USL.

So if that’s off the table, the next option is to find a grassroots league to be a part of that’s not involved with the bigwigs at MLS. Up until now, that league has been the NPSL, but they’re situated in the fourth division of American soccer and they’ve recently announced that all teams in the league will be required to field amateur rosters. The Cosmos are intent on having a professional first team, so that option is out.

The other possibility is NISA, a third-tier league in its first season and budding with opportunity to grow. It’s entirely possible, however, that despite the Cosmos’ rich history and strong base of supporters, NISA won’t be willing to accept them as an expansion team. This is because they’re still fighting for permanent sanctioning by the US Soccer Federation, who is closely tied with MLS, and they might well fear that the Cosmos would be a hindrance to keeping their sanctioned status as a Division III league.

Thus, the politics and closed systems of American soccer seems to have done more than hinder our chance as soccer fans to see promotion and relegation in our country. It’s now holding back the club with the most soccer history America has ever seen from finding a league to play in. Whether people love them or hate them, the Cosmos deserve a chance to continue playing soccer and keep the dream alive of maintaining the Cosmos brand.

What are your thoughts on the New York Cosmos? Considering Detroit City are playing them as this is being published, I imagine their supporters might be a bit more intensely critical than usual. Like they needed another reason to be intense. But hey, intensity is welcome; it’s part of what makes the lower league soccer community so much fun to be involved in. No matter who you support, let us know how you feel about the Cosmos!

Also be sure to get invovled on SmallWorld Social on whether or not the Cosmos should get a chance to play pro soccer, what league they would fit best in, or if you just want to hate on Comcast.

Either way, watch local soccer, unify those around you, and seek out diversity!




By danny kotula

danny kotula is an aspiring sports writer and play-by-play commentator. unfortunately, he is not good at either one. his interests include watching soccer and listening to obscure music genres, and those aren’t even his most boring ones. he was born in Tacoma, Washington but has called South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Texas, California, Georgia, and Costa Rica home over the course of his life. he generally knows where to put a comma, which is by far his most redeeming quality. he is writing this in third person as if he were famous enough for someone to write him a biography, but don’t be fooled. he’s not famous.

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