In the last 48 hours, the second iteration of the North American Soccer League collapsed under the weight of leveraged debt and the stain of Traffic Sports Marketing, which is in the eye of the ongoing FIFA investigation.
The final blow, yesterday morning, came when the New York Cosmos, a club which used a vast amount of money to buy rights to use the old name, leverage sponsorship from a Middle Eastern airline, and to play its games at Hofstra University, folded its tent after a seven-figure loss this year.
For the New York Cosmos organization, the folding of the franchise was a missed opportunity on a number of levels. The Cosmos were brought back with some fanfare beginning with a friendly in England in 2011 with a roster including Patrick Vieira, Fabio Cannavaro, Sol Campbell, Robert Pires, Robbie Keane and Michel Salgado.
But by the time the Cosmos got back onto the pitch in a league match, it was halfway through the NASL’s 2013 season, and the rules were changed to allow the Cosmos to take part in the posteason despite only playing a half-season. The team also didn’t have the starpower of the 2011 side; Keane would sign with the Los Angeles Galaxy, and Vieira is the current coach of New York City FC.
The Cosmos played soccer good enough to win the NASL championship three times in four seasons, but never advanced past the octofinal round of the U.S. Open Cup.
But more damning for the franchise was that it went into operation without a working plan for a soccer-specific stadium. The team had its eye on a patch of land at Belmont Park, but the proposals were only submitted in late 2015. With the dissolution of the team, it’s not likely the park will ever be built unless the plan for New York City FC (currently centering on Columbia University) falls through.
Out of the ashes, however, has come a possibility that, regrettably, was never considered by Traffic or any of the NASL clubs under its control: a team which is being developed with an eye towards an equal partnership with an NWSL club.
That’s what’s happened with the franchise formerly known as the Carolina Railhawks. The new North Carolina FC is playing in the United Soccer Leagues’ USL Pro league next year, but has plans on two fronts by 2018. It is looking to move to MLS in the next round of expansion, and is aiming to secure an NWSL team for the 2018 season.
It’s too bad the Cosmos, with its name recognition, didn’t do the same when it had the chance.