SYDNEY (AP) – The New York Cosmos have been a ghost haunting American soccer for the better part of the past three decades. Many have longed to see the return of those iconic uniforms and that unforgettable logo to a field again. On Thursday, those people received the news perhaps they thought they would never hear.
The Cosmos are coming back.
No, the storied club isn't all the way back. But, Thursday's announcement that the Cosmos would be in the second-division of NASL in 2013 was the first real tangible sign that the Cosmos could one day return as a full-fledged first division side.
It may be a small step, but after years of false starts and failed publicity stunts, the holders of the Cosmos brand have finally made a concrete move toward reclaiming their place as the group most likely to land Major League Soccer's second New York franchise.
Yes, you read that right. As much as a second New York team in MLS seems inevitable given the league's desire to have one, that team is by no means guaranteed to be the Cosmos. The continued success of the league has meant more interested potential owners in New York. This during a time when the Cosmos were seemingly wasting what many thought had been the pole position in landing that MLS franchise in New York.
The Cosmos have taken a major stride in catching the league's eye again, but that will only help if the Cosmos show they can run a soccer club and capture the interest of soccer fans in the Big Apple. Something the New York Red Bulls , and MetroStars before them, have never really done.
That fact serves as a frustrating point to soccer fans in the rest of the country, particularly in places with MLS aspirations, like Orlando, Minneapolis and Miami. Why does MLS keep pining for a second New York team when the one they have isn't even selling out its stadium?
That line of thinking ignores the reality of the New York/New Jersey dynamic. Residents of New York City never have and never will travel in numbers to root for teams based in New Jersey. This has left a virtually untapped and vibrant base of soccer fans that have never embraced MLS because for many of them it was a river or two away--and that may as well be worlds away.
The people who ran the MetroStars knew this and chose to focus on growing roots in New Jersey, where a majority of the team's fan base is now from. The Red Bulls have tried hard to make inroads across the river, but have not had much more success than their predecessors, and have actually struggled to even build up the market they actually reside in.
Those struggles make the league's quest for a second New York team seem foolish, but only if you blame those problems on the market, rather than on the people who have run those unsuccessful teams before. And only if you ignore the fact there hasn't been an MLS team actually based in New York City.
MLS sees the potential, the bustling immigrant communities and the chance to bring MLS to the five boroughs. What the league needs is a place within NYC to build a stadium, and an ownership group with the financial clout and soccer savvy to make a second New York team work.
Consider the NASL move the Cosmos' audition--their chance to show that the team is more than just a familiar logo and dusty trophies. If the Cosmos can hit the ground running and show that they know how to run a club and grow roots in New York City, MLS might not only have the ownership group they have been waiting for. They may also receive the help they need to make the dream of a New York City soccer stadium a reality.