By Eric Beard, writing from Boston
The New York Cosmos, a club that was dominant in the North American Soccer League (NASL) with stars such as Pelé, Carlos Alberto, Franz Beckenbauer, and Giorgio Chinaglia, but stopped functioning operations in the mid-1980s, has officially been revived. However, the club won’t be making a comeback in Major League Soccer just yet, but rather a group led by the English businessman Paul Kemsley, with Pelé as honorary president, has acquired the club’s name and on Sunday announced its relaunch at halftime of the final of Copa NYC at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.
“Our plan has several phases, but if you fast-forward, it’s our aspiration to play at the highest level in this country, and that’s MLS, ” said Joe Fraga, the executive director of the new New York Cosmos. “And we are serious. We want to make it relevant again; we want kids to know what the Cosmos were and are, to bring the soccer dream back to the city. Pelé is our face, and you couldn’t do better than that, not just for the Cosmos, but for soccer in general. Our goal is to respect history and the legacy, and make it relevant now.”
The New York Cosmos were the best team in America back in the day, but they were also a reason why the league as a whole was not sustainable. This appeals to the perhaps shrouded idea that the Cosmos have become a franchise as idolized as it is despised. So as glamorous as the legacy of the New York Cosmos is, there is every reason why an American soccer supporter will want to be wary of the legacy and the ideals of the Cosmos organization.
Of course, this provides a paradox for true football fans. The New York Cosmos valued the best brand of football at all costs, but that mindset, in itself, could very well destroy the game’s steadily growing popularity in the United States. Football in America is still very much in a precarious state, so how can the New York Cosmos ensure that they benefit Major League Soccer without destroying it in the process?