The New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League were the most successful and most famous team in American soccer history.
Founded in 1971, the Cosmos dominated the competition in their heyday, winning five titles and making the playoffs virtually every year. They regularly beat up on teams 5-0 and put on a show for the 70,000 plus people who packed Giants Stadium. The atmosphere was incredible for each game, with fans showing up hours before the game to tailgate in the Giants Stadium parking lot.
Millionaire and president of the Cosmos Steve Ross went to great lengths to put together a star-studded team every year. He broke the bank for Pele, Franz Beckenbauer, Carlos Alberto, Giorgio Chinaglia, and many other world-class soccer players. He helped put the Cosmos on the map with his bold acquisitions, and did all he could to make soccer the most popular sport in New York.
Former-goalkeeper Shep Messing to this day says that the Cosmos were more famous than the Yankees during the ‘70s. Pele and company were often seen partying with rock stars like Mick Jagger in New York City clubs. The team was a circus, but it didn’t matter because they won games.
Eventually the enormous budget of the Cosmos, the repeated success of the team each and every year, and the head scratching decisions to expand to cities like Edmonton, Calgary, and Las Vegas, diminished the competition and lost the interest of Americans.
Owners in other markets could not compete with New York, leading to a huge gap in the quality of play by teams not named the New York Cosmos. While Cosmos domination was enjoyable for New Yorkers, it became a bit repetitive for fans of other teams.
Ultimately, what led to the demise of the NASL was the retirement of legendary Pele. After he hung up the cleats, there wasn’t that Pele-type superstar to carry on the legacy of the team and draw enough interest from the average soccer fan. Attendance began to decline and ratings were at their lowest until the league finally dissolved in 1985.
All that was left for the Cosmos was the name. Years after they folded, fans from everywhere in the world still reminisce on the glory years of the team. Attempts to bring the Cosmos to the MLS in 1996 failed as the league had to resort to naming New York’s franchise the New York/New Jersey MetroStars. Former Cosmos General Manager Peppe Pinton refused to sell the team name to the MLS for fear that it would not carry on the rich legacy that the Cosmos left in the ‘80s.
After a twenty-four year absence, however, the Cosmos are back. The name was sold in 2009, and as of now the team is starting up again with the intention of joining the MLS as the 20th franchise in 2013.
The speculation is that the team will be owned by Mets owner Fred Wilpon and based in Queens, but the recent financial problems of the Wilpon’s are putting this in doubt.
The team already has a logo, a uniform, several high-profile employees such as Eric Cantona, Cobi Jones, and Giovanni Saverese, and it has a youth team that will compete in the under-23 Premier Development League.
While it is not a definite that New York will be granted a second MLS franchise, here are three reasons why Don Garber has to make the Cosmos an MLS franchise.