For the third time since its reboot four years ago, the New York Cosmos have finished a season lifting the North American Soccer League trophy as league champions.
But sadly, that might be where the good news stops.
Winning a league championship is always a significant accomplishment, especially in a season that encompasses more than 30 matches and runs from early April through mid-November. But now, there are questions for the Cosmos to address that go far beyond roster moves.
Unfortunately for New York, they are a good team that plays in what is now a weakened league. Earlier this year, the Atlanta Silverbacks and San Antonio Scorpions left the league and Tampa Bay Rowdies and Ottawa Fury in October each announced their intention to shift to the United Soccer League. In fairness, Miami FC, Puerto Rico FC and Rayo OKC made their respective NASL debuts this season.
But a good team needs good competition to continue growing. In its four years since returning to the league, the Cosmos have proven adept in attracting veteran talent such as Marco Senna, Raul and Juan Arango along with a host of youngers to the friendly confines of Shuart Stadium.
Could the Cosmos play in Major League Soccer? Most certainly. They would just need to cough up expansion fees that could be as high as $200 million. They would also need a stadium. (We’ll get to that later.)
Sadly, the likelihood of a move to MLS is miniscule. But having three New York-area teams in Major League Soccer would be good for business and create some wonderful regional rivalries.
The other major issue facing Cosmos management is a pitch. The relationship with Hofstra University has never been perfect, and crowds at the university’s former college stadium over the years have shrunk.
I was there at the first home game back in August of 2013 when more than 12,000 made the trek to Uniondale to get a glimpse of Pele and see the return of the soccer team those of us now in our mid-40s watched when were kids. I was also in the packed stands the night of the Cosmos memorable shootout win over New York City FC in the U.S. Open Cup.
The Cosmos are a worthy team that has an important chapter in the book of American soccer, which is still being written. Let’s hope there’s more great moments for the team to come in the future.