New York Cosmos set to eclipse Major League Soccer?

August 2, 2013 at 10:02 pm | Posted in General Football, Whitecaps Season 2013 | Leave a comment
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What could be come a major success story for soccer in North America could prove to be hard reading for Don Garber and Major League Soccer (MLS). The New York Cosmos, a giant of a dormant sports brand is about to awaken again, and the shadow it will cast might just be a threat to MLS.

You might ask yourself: of all of the soccer teams in the United States and Canada, which brand is the biggest and best known? Is it the Los Angeles galaxy? The Seattle Sounders? The New York Red Bulls? Not even close; it is the New York Cosmos. The New York Cosmos brand is the best known by far. The Cosmos brand is a global brand, and is one of world football’s most under utilized brands. The sleeping giant is about to awaken. They play their first match in 30 years tomorrow night against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in an NASL match.

I have argued that Don Garber should do his utmost to succeed in bringing the Cosmos brand into the MLS fold. It is worth it at almost any cost. The Cosmos already have a TV contract, a major sponsorship deal, and a stadium plan in spite of the fact they haven’t kicked a ball in 30 years. If I were the commissioner I would even consider waiving or lowering the franchise fee, because the Cosmos brand would bring untold millions to the MLS in TV rights, merchandise sales, and star players who would love to play in the jersey formerly worn by Pele, Carlos Alberto, and Beckanbauer.

I’ll bet Thierry Henri would rather play in front of a packed stadium wearing a New York Cosmos jersey than play dressed up like a pop tin in the half-empty Red Bull Arena. The introduction of the Cosmos in MLS would help boost the rather pathetic attendances in some teams in the Eastern Conference of the MLS. Given the Cosmos’ history of competitiveness and tradition of football excellence, it might improve the quality as well.

The battle for New York is already on and frankly, I see the Cosmos beating both the newly minted NYCFC and the New York Red Bulls. The success of the revitalized Vancouver Whitecaps, Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers brands should give Don Garber pause to think about the historical value of old NASL brands. MLS brands that have tried to be baby cousins to larger existing brands have failed miserably (notably Chivas USA). History and tradition mean a great deal in the world’s most popular game, even here in North America. Free standing teams with their own identities are what build loyalty; being the bastard son of Manchester City FC and the New York Yankees may well not cut it.

The Cosmos Brand will be fighting with one arm tied behind its back, however, because it will play in the second division NASL. But watch for the NASL to get a massive boost from the addition of the Cosmos. It may get a boost to the point where many of its teams are able to compete in attendance numbers with the sluggish MLS franchises such as DC United, New England Revolution and Columbus Crew. This raises the spectre of a rival NASL which is vying with MLS to be division 1 in North American football. Surely the best way for MLS to ward off the threat of a rival league would be to pull the NY Cosmos into the MLS fold.

By not striking a deal with the Cosmos, Garber and MLS have missed a historic opportunity to give the entire MLS a massive boost, especially in its moribund Eastern Conference. By not coupling with the Cosmos, Garber has given an advantage to a rival league that could eventually destabilize and threaten the MLS.

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