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Cosmos say they will return to NASL this year

New York Cosmos midfielder Yohandry Orozco (19) celebrates

New York Cosmos midfielder Yohandry Orozco (19) celebrates scoring a goal against the Miami FC with teammates during the first half of a game at Hofstra's James M. Shuart Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016. Credit: Brad Penner

Considered all but dead by many observers at the end of 2016, the Cosmos are alive and kicking in the new year with a new owner poised to purchase the team.

In wake of the U.S. Soccer board of directors’ late Friday decision granting the North American Soccer League provisional Division 2 status, the two-time defending league champions on Saturday announced that they will return this season.

“The New York Cosmos can confirm full participation in the 2017 North American Soccer League season,” Cosmos Chief Operating Officer Erik Stover said in a statement. “The affirmation of Division II status for the NASL allows us to move forward with confidence.”

The Cosmos are confident they will have a new owner as cable company magnate Rocco B. Commisso is finalizing the details to acquire a majority share from Sela Sport and Cosmos chairman Seamus O’Brien.

A Bronx native, Commisso is the CEO of Mediacom Communications Corp., the nation’s fifth largest cable television company. He earned his undergraduate and masters degrees at Columbia University.

The 67-year-old Commisso is no stranger to soccer, co-captaining Columbia to its first NCAA tournament appearance (1970) and receiving a tryout invitation for the 1972 Olympic team. The school recognized his contributions to the program, naming its soccer stadium after him.

Coach Giovanni Savarese’s challenge is rebuilding a championship side that has seen six players move on after the team released all players from their contracts. He must secure replacements for league MVP Juan Arango and forward Yohandry Orozco (both with Zulia FC, Venezuela), midfielder Danny Szetela (San Francisco Deltas, NASL) and forwards Jairo Arrieta (Herediano, Costa Rica), Lucky Mkosana (FK Mariehamn, Finland) and Yasmani Duk (Al Ettifaq, Saudi Arabia).

“We have a lot of work to do in a short amount of time, including signing players and rebuilding our roster,” Stover said. “That work begins in earnest now. We will have more information about the club and our year ahead in the coming days.”

The Cosmos, who won’t play at Hofstra this year, are seeking a new home. They had been negotiating to play at MCU Park where the minor league Brooklyn Cyclones, the Mets Class A team, plays. The season begins in April.

The U.S. Soccer board gave a year’s provisional status to the United Soccer League and NASL since both failed to meet D2 criteria. Leagues need a minimum of 12 teams for that distinction. The NASL has shrunk to eight clubs (FC Edmonton, Indy Eleven, Jacksonville Armada FC, Miami FC, North Carolina FC, Puerto Rico FC, San Francisco and Cosmos).

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