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Professional Jul 12, 2012

They’re back: New York Cosmos to join new NASL as expansion team next season

By Charles Boehm

The North American Soccer League on Thursday announced that the New York Cosmos have joined the NASL and will begin league play in the 2013 season. The NASL Board of Governors unanimously approved the Cosmos’ membership during its meetings this week in New York.

It’s been nearly 30 years since the Cosmos, an iconic global soccer brand, have played in a professional league. Yet “the franchise has maintained a loyal and dedicated fan following,” in the words of an official press release from the club and the modern incarnation of the NASL, which took the name of the memorable, boom-and-bust league dominated by the original Cosmos in the 1970s and ‘80s when it broke away from the United Soccer Leagues in 2009.

The new NASL currently includes eight teams from the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico, and sits on the second tier of the North American men’s soccer pyramid. Present and future NASL member teams now include the Atlanta Silverbacks, Carolina RailHawks, FC Edmonton, Ft. Lauderdale Strikers, New York Cosmos (beginning play in 2013), Minnesota Stars, Puerto Rico Islanders, San Antonio Scorpions, Tampa Bay Rowdies and Ottawa (beginning play in 2014).

“We are extremely proud to welcome the New York Cosmos to the North American Soccer League,” said NASL Commissioner David Downs in a press release. “As we continue to expand the league and help grow professional soccer in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean, the Cosmos brand and their strong ownership group are a perfect fit with us.  The history of the Cosmos and soccer in the New York City area are intertwined.  Bringing the Cosmos into the NASL is a logical next step as we embrace the heritage of our own past and now reunite the Cosmos, Strikers, Rowdies and several markets with ties to the NASL’s early days.  Most importantly, we look forward to the Cosmos enhancing the quality of our league both on and off the field.”

The New York Cosmos first began play in 1971, spending fourteen seasons in the old NASL, winning five Soccer Bowl trophies and bringing worldwide icons like Pele, Franz Beckenbauer, Carlos Alberto and Giorgio Chinaglia to light up the United States’ growing soccer scene. At their peak, they drew packed crowds at cavernous Giants Stadium and drew nearly as much attention off the field when they partied hard at Studio 54 and other hip New York City nightclubs. Both the club and the league fell on hard times in the ‘80s and faded into oblivion, but left a quirky, nostalgic legacy.

Cosmos officials say they expect to announce more details about its stadium, ticket sales, soccer operations staff and players “in the near future,” though reports suggest that the club is leaning towards selecting a venue on Long Island — and on Thursday afternoon the New York Times’ Jack Bell reported that the site would be at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium is the appropriate size for a second-division team and has been underutilized since the school shut down its NCAA football program.

The Cosmos ownership group, formally titled “New York Cosmos LLC,” is an international partnership led by industry veteran Seamus O’Brien which states that it is “committed to putting the brand back at the forefront of North American soccer.” The group’s long-term ambitions also include a move up to Major League Soccer; MLS executives are eager to place a second team in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area in the next few years and recently identified a potential stadium construction site in Queens, near the National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows.

“We are delighted to return to our historic home with the NASL and bring the New York Cosmos back to the playing field,” said O’Brien. “We are committed to running the franchise with the highest possible standards on and off the field, and look forward to putting together a competitive and entertaining team our fans can be proud of.”

Over two days of meetings on Wednesday and Thursday, the NASL Board of Governors also heard presentations from other potential expansion team owners and mulled possible changes to the league’s competition structure.

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