At one time in the 1970s, the New York Cosmos soccer team was as popular as George Steinbrenner’s New York Yankees World Series winning teams.
The Walt Disney Company’s ABC broadcast network unit had some success last summer bringing back some old television game shows of the 1970s. The Match Game, the whatever version money Pyramid did so well, that ABC has renewed the series for 2017 and ABC has ordered episodes of a new Gong Show. But sometimes you cannot replace an original product and in New York, the new version of the New York Cosmos soccer team and the North American Soccer League has fizzled out again.
The brand was brought back to life for the 2013 season and there were some plans to reestablish the Cosmos but this version of the Cosmos franchise was low key playing across the street from the Nassau Coliseum in a college soccer stadium at Hofstra University. But there were bigger plans which included building a 25,000 seat stadium near Belmont Racetrack on the Queens-Nassau border off a parkway and a subway station. That plan is dead as New York’s Empire State Development Corp. canceled its 4-year-old request for proposals at the site. The state agency’s move ended on a plan to construct a 25,000-seat stadium on the property. There was also some talk of the New York Islanders new ownership group looking into the site as a possible home for the team. That door appears to have to shut as well.
The 1970s version of the New York Cosmos was more than just a soccer team and ultimately because of that, professional soccer hit a wall. Warner Communications wanted more than a team in the North American Soccer League. Warner wanted to have the best team, the best players and the best party animals with New York’s infamous Studio 54 crowd of Andy Warhol, Mick Jagger and others rubbing elbows with Cosmos players. It got to be overwhelming for Warner and for the rest of the league which could not keep up financially with the Cosmos, a team that regularly sold out the New Jersey Meadowlands. Both the team and league folded in 1984.
The Cosmos brand name was famous in soccer circles once. But Major League Soccer has ruled out a third team in New York and the Cosmos brand entering the MLS.
Soccer is now a part of the permanent sports landscape of the United States with leagues and national teams and in fact, the American women’s team is one of the strongest squads in the world. But there is still a state of flux as soccer seeks a niche. Major League Soccer seems firmly established but none of the individual franchise owners have made any money on their teams. Attempts to establish women’s leagues have failed. Now the second tier North American Soccer League has failed and one of America’s most famous soccer brands, the New York Cosmos, has suspended operations. There is also the United Soccer League which has seen teams move up to Major League Soccer and in some ways acts as a farm system for Major League Soccer.
The New York Cosmos franchise was owned by Warner Communications and started in the NASL in 1968 but Warner Chairman Steve Ross decided at some point to make the New York Cosmos brand a global presence. In 1975, Ross was able to get Pele and part of his Cosmos salary came from being an artist on Warner’s Atlantic Records label. The spending continued with almost every big available name on the market ending up with the Cosmos. Cosmos games were major events at the New Jersey Meadowlands but Pele would only play a few years. Attendance fell after Pele retired and Warner lost significant money on the team. Rupert Murdoch attempted a hostile takeover of Warner Communications, failed, and Warner sold off the soccer division. The Cosmos brand was dead along with the league by 1984. The 1994 United States-based World Cup ignited American soccer interest again and the MLS took a much more measured approach to running a league. The Cosmos brand was revived for the new NASL. Financial failure repeated itself for both the Cosmos and NASL.