Tuesday night's international soccer exhibition at Citi Field not only was further proof that there is room for the sport in an America saturated with baseball, football and basketball, but also evidence that there is enough space -- barely -- to squeeze a 110-by-70 yard soccer field into the Mets' stadium.
Beyond that, the 1-1 tie between the national teams of Ecuador and Greece hinted at soccer's future in Queens, where Major League Soccer -- the 16-year-old U.S. pro league -- has indicated it prefers placing its 20th franchise for 2013.
In terms of passing some sort of audition, start with Tuesday night's crowd of 39,656 -- something to make the Mets jealous. That partly was a reminder that, outside of Ecuador and Greece, the borough is home to more Ecuadorians and Greeks than anywhere else in the world. But it also fed the growing belief that the sport long ago became a viable spectator product in the United States.
Mets vice president David Howard is on record promising more soccer events at Citi Field, though its contours are thoroughly awkward for soccer. And, despite the expense and trouble of covering most of the baseball infield with grass, thus requiring big paying crowds to assure a profit.
Still, the not-so-distant plan is for a new MLS franchise to be situated in a soccer-specific stadium next door to Citi. MLS commissioner Dan Garber envisions a metropolitan-area rival for the New York Red Bulls, who settled into their new arena, in Harrison, N.J., a year ago.
Those expressing interest in such an MLS investment (projected to start at $100 million) included the Wilpons, owners of the Mets. At least, before the Bernie Madoff mess and the Mets' For Sale sign. An MLS spokesman confirmed there have been "talks" with the Wilpons in the past, while also looming over such discussions is Paul Kemsley, a 43-year-old former British real estate mogul who recently bought the rights to the old New York Cosmos brand.
For more than a year, the resurrected Cosmos name has existed as a marketing tool -- and with 1970s Cosmos superstars Pele and Giorgio Chinaglia on the payroll as figureheads -- in spite of having no players, no team and no league.
Meanwhile, Tuesday night's event unfolded on the temporary pitch -- angled from the third-base foul line to the right-centerfield wall, and with the baseball pitcher's mound leveled and grassed over -- amid the passion and vividness of a championship atmosphere.
Yellow Ecuadorian shirts in the stands vastly outnumbered the blue and white of Greece, but Greek midfielder Alexandros Tziolis' opening goal, on a diving header in the 16th minute, shook the rafters.
Naturally, politicians were in on such a significant act. State senator Mike Gianaris (D-Astoria) and Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Corona) served as honorary captains in recognition of their Greek and Ecuadorian roots. (They made a bet of baklava and empanadas.)
Very American, that, in a land of hyphenated citizenry, of Ecuadorian-Americans and Greek-Americans, of the new and old world coexisting. Under the huge scoreboard tracking all the Major League Baseball results, a festive, intense soccer showdown played out.