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Powell: Will the Cosmos kick off soccer's popularity in New York?
The Knicks and the Nets. The Mets and the Giants. The Cosmos and the Unos? Who knows.
"Soccer is the global sport, New York is America's global city and we want to be a global team," said Seamus O'Brien, chief executive officer for the revitalized New York Cosmos, in a Monday meeting with Newsday’s editorial board.
O'Brien is taking a tour to promote the team and discuss its plan for a 25,000 seat stadium in Elmont across Hempstead Turnpike from Belmont Park, one the nation’s premier horse tracks.
O’Brien and other investors believe that New York, and more specifically Long Island, represents the national heart of the soccer fan base and that over time the team and it’s new stadium could spark increased popularity for the sport in America.
If the Cosmo’s are successful, perhaps another franchise will move into the area. O'Brien said rivalries are one of the best ways to draw crowds, referencing Britain’s fierce Manchester United and Liverpool competitions, a scenario repeated in Europe and South America.
O’Brien’s pitch to New York State to develop the parking lots and other acreage on the south side of the turnpike will also feature fast-food restaurants, retailers and a hotel. Their proposal says the stadium complex will create about 3,000 long-term jobs and an additional 500 throughout the construction period.
Currently, the LIRR provides service to the Belmont stop only on racing days. Plans to increase service to the stop for the sake of the stadium will cost millions of dollars but the Cosmos aren’t willing to fund it unless they get a cheap deal on the land from the state.
The Cosmos' first season back kicks off in August. To keep on par with the international soccer calendar, as European teams don’t play in the summer, the team will play in the fall and spring for a total of about 32 games. For now, the games will be held at Hofstra University.
The team is part of the North American Soccer League (NASL), which is considered a rung below Major League Soccer (MLS). Popular MLS teams include The Los Angeles Galaxy and The New York Red Bulls. The Cosmos existed as part of the old NASL from 1971-1985 and announced their return in August 2010 to the NASL.
But is New York really ready for this? Are we going to welcome and fund a fourth sport with open arms?
O'Brien says yes but has no marketing research to verify that crowds will actually flock to games or shop and dine at the venue.
It's been touted many times over that soccer's moment in America is coming.
Is anyone actually waiting for it, though?