New York, New York: Cosmos proves football can work in America

The New York Cosmos is undoubtedly one of the greatest football teams in history. This belief is not commonly held within the modern day footballing community but with the team re-emerging the Big Apple glitz and glamour of the Cosmos could very much be back, and soon.


Its story sounds very much before its time and indeed the highly talented side that flourished in the North American Soccer League (NASL) very much was. Forget Manchester City, Chelsea, Anzhi, PSG. The Cosmos were the original super wealthy, super power. Backed by Warner Communication’s president Steve Ross the team bought some of the most talented players to ever play the game. Pele, Franz Beckenbauer and Giorgio Chinaglia all playing in the same team is a mouth watering prospect for any football fan. Even though this was very much before my time highlights of the clubs matches and various books/ documentaries about the Cosmos gives a sense of the enormity of the club. Its revival is a very exciting prospect and one that could set the MLS on fire in the way a single David Beckham could never do despite his success in raising the profile of the league.


The Cosmos’ stadium and its supporters during its prime was breathtaking. The club moved to the Giants Stadium in 1977, and average attendance’s peaked at over 40,000 between 1978 to 1980. The biggest attendance the club managed to draw stands at an astonishing 77,691 for a play-off game against Fort Lauderdale Strikers. Considering America has never taken to football the Cosmos was a ground breaking success.


The club became champions of the NASL five times between 1972 and 1982. The decline of the club and the league as a whole after the retirement of Pele in 1977 should not have come as a surprise. Pele, one of the greatest players of all time, is a very hard hole to fill. What’s exciting today is that the MLS looks to have learned from its mistakes and is on the right track once again. With the potential arrival of the Cosmos in the next few years to the MLS after its confirmation it has been added to the second tier- North American Soccer League starting from 2013 , it could become a constant source of attraction and intrigue from across the globe.


Certainly the club is already living up to its history in terms of high profile names. Eric Cantona acts as the perfect Director of Soccer with his unique French swagger bringing a touch of class to proceedings. Pele currently acts as Honorary President and serves as a living reminder of the club’s rich history.


The Cosmos’ inaugural friendly on August 5, 2011 was a true sight to behold. If you have not seen this match I very much suggest a quick youtube search. Played at Old Trafford against Manchester United the Cosmos created a team of guest players ranging from old favourites Patrick Vieira, Robert Pires, Dwight Yorke to modern day pro’s Brad Friedel, Robbie Keane and Michel Salgado. The fact the team lost 6-0 is completely irrelevant. The team announced its arrival on the biggest stage. The sight of the club’s badge morphing old with new on the chests of the club’s traditional colours had me hooked. If the club were to burst onto the MLS scene, consider me a regular viewer.


Of course it remains to be seen whether the club will be launched in America’s biggest league. And further still it remains to be seen if the club can do for New York’s culture and love of football as it did so dramatically in the 1970’s. However football needs the Cosmos. And football in America certainly needs the Cosmos. This article might be longing for a return of a time I didn’t have the fortune of witnessing. But the size of the Cosmos and its appeal will do wonders for the sport in America. And, even more ambitious still, perhaps will create a demand for America to once again hold a World Cup as it did so successfully in 1994.


Shouldn’t it be time we finally broke the final frontier?


Tomos Llewellyn


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