our professional soccer team makes MCU Park in Coney Island home, and builds for a hopeful repeat of last year’s championship

by Matt Scanlon

It’s too often forgotten that—among the heady days of Yankee supremacy in pretty much the whole of the 1970s, and Knicks dominance in the early part of that decade—we enjoyed an additional and in its way miraculous sports primacy, in the form of the New York Cosmos. With superstar Edson Arantes do Nascimento (aka Pelé) spiritually leading the team, the franchise, which operated from 1970 to 1985, was not only the first U.S. professional soccer team to play in China, but its playoff match against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in 1977 drew a crowd of no less than 77,691 (a record for American club soccer) and it regularly attracted 40,000 to the several stadiums it occupied over the years. Interest in soccer waned among Americans in the 1980s, however, and the Cosmos ultimately became a victim of that dynamic.

During an attempt at a relaunch in 2011, negotiations faltered over the Cosmos’s entry into the Major League Soccer league, so in 2012, the team announced its intention to play in the lower-tier North American Soccer League, under the directorship of head coach Giovanni Savarese. The move proved fortuitous; in its very first NASL season, the team won the Fall Championship with a 9-4-1 record and ultimately the Soccer Bowl 2013 against the Atlanta Silverbacks. Despite these and other successes, financial difficulties plagued the organization, and it was purchased by Rocco B. Commisso (chairman and CEO of Mediacom Communications Corporation) in January, who immediately made moves to market the team more aggressively, including giving it a permanent home at MCU Stadium in Coney Island.

“Like so many of our fans, I have followed the Cosmos since the fabulous days of Pelé, [Giorgio] Chinaglia, Alberto [Carlos Alberto Torres], and [Franz] Beckenbauer,” said Commisso. “With my deep roots in the New York City area as a former player [he played soccer for the Columbia Lions from 1967 to 1970], youth coach, and proud supporter of the Columbia University soccer program, I look forward to building on the rich history of America’s most iconic soccer club.” Savarese, who remains head coach, added that, “I am thrilled Rocco is giving me the opportunity to pursue our fourth championship in five years.”

The 2017 season began and will end against Puerto Rico; the league’s defending champions kicked off with a trip to the Commonwealth on March 25 (the game was a 0-0 tie) and will close with a home game against them on October 28. As of press time, the Cosmos’s record is 2-3-1, and though its roster this year is generally regarded as a building project, plagued by injuries and departures (including the loss of last season’s leading scorer, Juan Arango), spring games have been hard fought, and include a 1-0 win over the San Francisco Deltas.

“We’ve worked hard to secure a positive future for the club, and Rocco is the perfect person to lead the continued renaissance,” said Seamus O’Brien, outgoing Chairman of the Cosmos ownership group. “He is not only extremely knowledgeable about the beautiful game as it is played worldwide, but brings extensive entrepreneurial experience in the media and communications business to the organization.”

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