A couple of weeks ago it was announced that the New York Cosmos would be returning to the field in 2013. Bear in mind, this is not the Cosmos of the old NASL. Sure, the league and team have kept their names but almost everything else is different.
While the ownership of the modern version of the Cosmos is very wealthy, odds are high that the team will not be handing out millions of dollars to European and South American superstars. Some superstars are hesitant about playing in MLS because they feel it is a step down, let alone the U.S. second division. Plus, the team will likely be playing in a small university stadium that was designed for American football. Instead, odds are high that the Cosmos will spend more money than the average NASL team but that money will most likely be spent on MLS players that aren’t starting. If everything goes well, within a few years you may see the Cosmos in a new stadium and in MLS, but only time will tell.
Interestingly, if you really wanted to find a modern day version of the Cosmos, all you’d have to do is head to New Jersey to see the New York Red Bulls. Think about that for a second. The Red Bulls are backed by wealthy owners that are shelling out huge money to foreign stars. First it was Thierry Henry (that’s worked out pretty well) and then it was Rafa Marquez (not so well). Now Tim Cahill has signed with the club to be their third designated players. The Red Bulls may not yet be done however, as rumors of Kaka making the switch pick up steam.
The Red Bulls may look like a modern day version of the Cosmos, except for one glaring omission: fans. The old Cosmos for the most part had robust attendance that is legendary to this day. Not so much for the Red Bulls. So far this season the Red Bulls have averaged 17,443 fans but anyone that has watched the games could easily tell that figure is an exaggeration. Overall, attendance is down 11% this season. The worst was easily a mid-day match on a Wednesday that only had a few thousand fans in attendance. For some reason, fans just aren’t heading out to watch the team despite having one of the best stadiums in MLS.
You have to wonder how much longer it can last. The team’s owners (the energy drink Red Bull) have to be worried about shelling out millions of dollars a year for players and paying the costs of an expensive stadium if they don’t have any revenue coming in. Sure, Thierry Henry is a big name, but is he going to sell as many jersey’s as David Beckham? Plus, how can the team afford all of these stars as well as their expensive Scandinavian players?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for teams bringing in better quality players. There is no doubt that the addition of Thierry Henry has been one of the best moves a MLS team has ever made. Henry is only going to get better with the addition of Cahill. However, you have to wonder if the Red Bulls approach is too similar to the Cosmos. The team is definitely not going to fold like the old Cosmos, but having an ownership group that wants to sell and can’t might be just as bad.
Hopefully, having a resurrected Cosmos in the city will help the Red Bulls. After all, that is the argument Don Garber has put forward as the reason for adding a second team in New York. Derbies do generate a lot of interest in the media and bring in good television rating. It will be interesting to see how the Red Bulls react to the Cosmos presence. Maybe competition between the two teams will be just what the area needs to take an interest in domestic soccer.
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