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My Two Cents

My Two Cents

February 19, 2013
Ain't nothing like the real thing

Will Smith, who lives in Brooklyn, is a long-time soccer fan.

By Will Smith
Special to

Lovers of 1960s soul music know that Marvin Gaye and Tami Terrell sang, "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing," back in the Spring of 1968.

People love the "real thing." Old Coke was better than New Coke and whipped cream is infinitely better than Cool Whip. I don't know anyone who prefers veggie burger to real cheeseburgers, save the most hard-core vegetarian.

So it goes with sports too. New Yorkers like the Jets, but are insanely passionate amount the Giants. I'm a Mets fan, but, boy, would do I ever wish the Dodgers and Giants hadn't moved out west. History and tradition matter in New York sports. New Yorkers love their sports legends. In baseball, we have Willie, Mickey and the Duke. In football, we have Frank Gifford and Y.A. Tittle. In basketball, we have Walt Frazier and Willis Reed of the Knicks. In soccer, we have Pele, Giorgio Chinaglia and Franz Beckenbauer of the New York Cosmos.

Of course, the Yankees, Giants and Knicks have a continuous history. Soccer history in New York is more complicated. The New York Cosmos ruled the roost in the old NASL, winning multiple championships and drawing big crowds before the league collapsed under its own weight in 1984. Twelve long years passed before the US had a first division league. When MLS finally did come on the scene, it was the Metrostars, not the Cosmos, who took the field at Giants Stadium.

To say that the Metrostars did not enjoy the same success as the Cosmos would be an understatement. The team struggled on the field which led to attendance issues and ultimately the sale of the team to Red Bull, which eponymously changed the team's name in 2006. In the years since, the team has moved into its own beautiful soccer specific stadium, brought in big name players and seen attendance improve. Despite the successes, their cabinet remains trophy-less. The Cosmos are still the only New York team to have won a top flight soccer championship for the region.

Now, the Cosmos are slated to take the field in the summer of 2013 in the re-established NASL, one level below MLS in the U.S. soccer hierarchy. They are going about building their team in a realistic, logical manner and have made it clear that their goal is to "play at the highest level." In the World of US soccer, that means MLS. They're even moving forward with stadium plans near Belmont Park.

Meanwhile, Major League Soccer is trying to push its own stadium plan through for Flushing Meadows Park and is looking for a $100 million one time expansion fee for whomever they divine worthy to join MLS. The Cosmos are allegedly balking at the high fee and MLS is believed to be talking to other groups interested in owning a NYC side. One such group reportedly includes by Chuck Blazer, former Jet Curtis Martin and former Cosmos goalkeeper Shep Messing. European sides Paris Saint Germain and Manchester City also have expressed interest.

Both MLS and the Cosmos are engaging in gamesmanship. MLS wants the $100 million expansion fee. The Cosmos don't want to pay the fee so they are giving the impression that they will just move ahead with a 25,000 seat arena for what is, essentially a minor league side.

Meanwhile, MLS knows that the last thing the league needs is a replay of the Chivas USA fiasco played out under the auspices of PSG or City. Conversely, the Cosmos can ill afford to build a stadium for a second division side that will be located approximately 10 miles from a spanking new first division side.

The Cosmos have the name and the tradition people want. MLS has the league. It's unclear who has the best shot at getting a stadium built or how deep the Cosmos' pockets are.

The best case scenario has the Cosmos merging their offer with the Blazer/Martin/Messing offer, MLS lowering the fee to $75 million and all parties focusing on getting one stadium built to serve the soccer fans of Queens and Long Island who are outside of the Red Bulls' reach.

Give the fans the tradition of the Cosmos and let the rivalry with Red Bulls begin. This is what is best for the game, the region, the league and the legacy of this sport in this area.

"The opinions reflected in the My Two Cents columns do not express the views of the editors or management of BigAppleSoccer. com"
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