July 17, 2012
MY TWO CENTS
Is This Cosmos Country?
Will Smith, a long-time Red Bulls and soccer fan, lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.
"The opinions reflected in the My Two Cents columns do not express the views of the editors or management of BigAppleSoccer. com"
By Will Smith
Special to BigAppleSoccer.com
Last week’s announcement that the New York Cosmos would be fielding a team in the North American Soccer League, America’s second tier of professional soccer, sent the internet into overdrive.
Responses to the announcement led to fits of joy, nostalgia, amusement, puzzlement and, from some fans, taunts of “Fake Cosmos.”
One thing -- the response WASN’T was muted. Everyone had an opinion. While some felt it was an insult to the legendary name, others saw it as being on par with the San Francisco Giants announcing a return to Coogan’s Bluff. Either way, there will be a team wearing the familiar, though long-since-seen, colors next season.
How they fare both on and off field will go a long way to determining if New York Cosmos 2.0 will be the next expansion team in MLS as many fans (and quite possibly Commissioner Don Garber) hope for. It’s no secret that MLS is looking to build a stadium in Flushing Meadows and then fill it with a team. It’s also no secret that “New York Cosmos” is a name that still draws attention, even 28 years after Ricky Davis scored their last league goal.
For the Cosmos to succeed in the NASL and thus make the move to MLS, they need to focus on three core areas:
Let’s look at each of these areas individually:
A) Don’t pimp the brand – When the Englishman, whose name we dare not speak, bought the team’s rights in 2010, his first step was not to build a team, but put a billboard up in Times Square and start selling overpriced jerseys. He did manage to put together a team of over-the-hill stars and B-listers to play Manchester United in Paul Scholes premature testimonial game, which the rent-a-Cosmos deservedly lost, 6-0. All these shenanigans did was tarnish the only thing the Cosmos had left -- their name. With the new ownership in place and the team about to start play in the second division, the time has come to nurture the team, not pimp out the brand.
B) Build the team the right way – The Cosmos of the late 1970s and early 1980s built a team around soccer legends such as Pele, Giorgio Chinaglia, Franz Beckenbauer and Carlos Alberto. They drew great crowds and won championships . . . until those greats retired and there was no foundation left to build upon. If the Cosmos are to be successful, they need to build the team in a reasonable, prudent manner. They need to develop players through their academy system, by signing recently released MLS veterans and reasonably priced foreigners. They can’t afford to splash out big money for players as there are no guarantees that those players would be willing to play in the Second Division. The goal is to build a team, not run a circus.
A) Put a winning team on the field in year one . While the Cosmos are busy trying to build the team the right way for the long term, they need to be aware that the soccer world, particularly the U.S. section of it, will be watching them very carefully. A dismal season means low attendance, which will lead to cries of “The New York area can’t support a second team” and “You can’t live in the past! These aren’t the REAL Cosmos,” The Cosmos will need to put together a playoff bound team in 2013 if they want to be taken seriously by New York fans and the MLS hierarchy.
B) Take the Lamar Hunt/U.S. Open Cup seriously. Never mind the expression “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!” Think instead, ”If you want to join ‘em, beat ‘em!” The fastest way for the Cosmos to be taken seriously by MLS is for the team to take the Open Cup seriously and play into the later rounds. This is the Cosmos only opportunity to face MLS squads in 2013 and they must not squander it. Beating those above you gets the attention of those around you. Getting past the Red Bulls in the Open Cup would sow the seeds of rivalry the likes not seen yet in American soccer. That should be the Cosmos goal.
Creativity (And I’m not talking on the field)
A) Reasonably priced tickets. As exciting as the return of the Cosmos is, the team needs to remember it is still division two aka a minor league team. As such, the level of play will likely be a shade below the play in MLS and well below the soccer you can watch on TV. As such, ticket prices should reflect that much in the way Brooklyn Cyclones and Staten Island Yankee tickets are priced below tickets for the Mets and Yankees. Anything $12 or less would be reasonable.
B) Be creative with getting fans out to the park. Even reasonably priced tickets and a good team may not be enough to get people out to Hofstra University, rumored to be the Cosmos temporary home. It’s a nuisance to get to if you don’t have a car and auto traffic, while blissfully toll free, can be slow-moving on summer weekends. The Cosmos need to pull out all stops. Every game should offer some kind of promotion and kids should be allowed to run on the field after the game. Queens and Long Island (and to a lesser extent, Brooklyn and the East Bronx) are the potential long term fan base for a Flushing-based Cosmos squad. The Red Bulls focus their marketing almost entirely on New Jersey and Manhattan. The Cosmos need to go grassroots and develop community relations in these geographic areas if they want to build a long term fans base.
No one knows for sure if the Cosmos, in their latest incarnation, can succeed in the NASL, let alone MLS. That said, reviving the most storied name in the history of American soccer is a noble and potentially lucrative idea if it is done properly.
With that said..CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP..CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP..COSMOS!
See you in 2013.
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