New York Cosmos continue to spend as club’s return draws closer, but money won’t buy fans

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With the fall season of the North American Soccer League kicking off in early August, the New York Cosmos headed overseas on Thursday, arriving in London for a preseason camp. Matches against Leyton Orient on July 24 and Watford on July 27 loom as the club’s “Remember Us?” campaign nears its moment of truth.

After signing a group of players with something to prove — most of them having been overlooked for much of their professional careers — preparations for the Cosmos’ reboot are well under way. Without a salary cap standing in its way, New York has as much money as its directors are willing to spend to ensure the club’s return is a success.

So far, the Cosmos have signed Marcos Senna from Villarreal, hired former New York Red Bulls managing director Erik Stover as chief operating officer and secured Pelé as the club’s honorary president and Eric Cantona as the director of soccer. (What either of the latter two does in practice for the club will likely be minimal.)

[ Further reading: Believe it when you see it: New York Cosmos propose $400 milllion stadium ]

Every possible angle has been covered to ensure the Cosmos will receive positive press, including offering a shuttle between the nearest train station and Hofstra University, the club’s home, on game days. What remains to be seen is how the fan base and American soccer community at large will respond.

For now, branding is all the club has, along with its history as the most successful club in a league that it bankrupted in the 1970s and ’80s. Expect immense pressure to perform on its modest roster, which includes former U.S. international Danny Szetela, who hasn’t played since 2010, and Peri Marošević, who landed in the Croatian second division after a forgettable three-year MLS career.

[ Further reading: Three Good Questions for: Cosmos CEO Seamus O’Brien ]

The New York Cosmos experiment is not quite on the scale of David Beckham’s signing with the Los Angeles Galaxy, but it does suggest certain hubris about the club that has not existed in over 30 years, believing it can pick up the role of America’s sweetheart that it left behind.

The most expensive single-match tickets for a Cosmos game cost $95, nearly five times as expensive as some clubs’. That kind of valuation could leave the club scrambling if it fails to fill seats in its first half-season back from the dead.

Meanwhile, the New York Red Bulls sit near the top of the Eastern Conference in Major League Soccer. Right now, the Cosmos have nothing on the club a division higher and with more momentum — both play outside of the city, but the Red Bulls have veritable star power on the field in Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill.

Could it change with a run of good early results for the Cosmos? Maybe, but it’s hard to see a lower-division team finding its name in lights in Times Square, no matter how many games it wins.


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LIVE, FA Cup semifinal: Chelsea v. Southampton

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Chelsea and Southampton clash in the FA Cup semifinal at Wembley on Sunday (10 a.m. ET kick off) for the right to play Manchester United in the final on May 19.

[ LIVE: Updates from Wembley ]

Antonio Conte led Chelsea to the FA Cup final last season but they lost to Arsenal. Even though the Blues are up against it to finish in the top four in the league, winning the cup would be a big success for Conte.

Saints haven’t made a cup semifinal since 2003 when they lost to Arsenal in the final. Mark Hughes‘ side are entrenched in the relegation zone and have a bigger challenge than making the final.

[ MORE: Minute-by-minute on Chelsea v Saints

Click on the links above to follow the action live, while we will have reaction and analysis live from Wembley right here on Pro Soccer Talk.

Arrests made after violent soccer riot in South Africa

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DURBAN, South Africa (AP) Police say two people have been arrested and more arrests are imminent after a violent riot at a South African soccer game on Saturday night, when hundreds of fans ripped up parts of the stadium, invaded the field, and seriously assaulted at least one security guard.

Players had to run for the safety of the dressing rooms as the fans swept onto the field soon after the final whistle.

[ MORE: The latest Arsene Wenger news ]

Police responded with stun grenades to disperse the rioters, and television pictures showed riot police storming the field and a white armored police vehicle racing across the edge of the pitch.

South African Police Services spokeswoman Nqobile Gwala on Sunday confirmed the arrests and said the two people were facing charges of public violence and malicious damage to property.

The violence mainly by Kaizer Chiefs fans followed their team’s 2-0 loss to Free State Stars in the semifinals of the Nedbank Cup competition at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in the east coast city of Durban, one of the stadiums built for the 2010 World Cup.

In the most disturbing scenes, a female security guard was set upon by a group of supporters on the field. She lay on the ground as they hit her with plastic chairs. A man then kicked her twice in the head. After the second kick she lay motionless and face down on the grass.

Police spokeswoman Gwala did not say if anyone had died in the violence, saying police had no information yet from stadium or medical authorities on any deaths.

Kaizer Chiefs coach Steve Komphela resigned after the game.

“Emotional” Mertesacker: Send Wenger off “with a cup”

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Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker has made 220 appearances for the club, all with one man in charge of the Gunners: Arsene Wenger.

[ MORE: The latest Arsene Wenger news ]

Mertesacker has won three FA Cups with Wenger, and he took up his pen — or laptop — for Sunday’s Matchday program.

The 33-year-old German says it’s down to Arsenal’s players to send off Wenger right: With two more successful rounds in the UEFA Europa League against Atletico Madrid and either Red Bull Salzburg or Marseille. From the BBC:

“We were only informed on Friday about the manager’s decision to step down at the end of the season, so it’s still quite emotional,” Mertesacker said.

“He’s been the major figure of this club for more than 20 years. He’s been so impressive for me and he has trusted me so much throughout my career, in bringing me here and making me captain even when I was injured. He also gave me a future role here at the club so I am very grateful and humbled for the opportunity he gave to me.

“There’s now an emphasis on us doing it for him too. We want to give him the send-off he deserves: with a cup.”

The French legend to end his time at Arsenal against Marseille would be delightful, don’t you think?

Watch Live: Arsenal-West Ham, Stoke-Burnley

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The Premier League has a pair of 8:30 a.m. ET Sunday kickoffs for us this morning, including one of Arsene Wenger‘s final matches at Arsenal.

There’s a London Derby between Arsenal and West Ham United at the Emirates Stadium, as the Gunners look to stay fresh for Atletico Madrid and the Hammers aim to firm up their Premier League status for next season (Watch live at 8:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

LINEUPS

Arsenal: Ospina, Bellerin, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal, Elneny, Xhaka, Ramsey, Iwobi, Welbeck, Lacazette. Subs: Macey, Mertesacker, Holding, Chambers, Maitland-Niles, Nelson. Aubameyang.

West Ham United: Hart, Zabaleta, Ogbonna, Rice, Cresswell, Masuaku, Kouyate, Noble, Fernandes, Mario, Arnautovic. Subs: Adrian, Cullen, Evra, Lanzini, Hugill, Carroll, Chicharito.


Stoke City’s climb out of the relegation zone will have to overcome Burnley’s desires for a Top Six place, as the Clarets can pass sixth place Arsenal with a win and a Gunners loss to West Ham (Watch live at 8:30 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

LINEUPS

Stoke City: Butland; Johnson, Shawcross, M.Indi, Pieters; Bauer, Allen, Badou, Shaqiri; Crouch, Diouf. Subs: Haugaard, Zouma, Ireland, Cameron, Fletcher, Ramadan, Campbell.

Burnley: Pope, Lowton, Long, Tarkowski, Ward, Lennon, Cork, Westwood, Gudmundsson, Wood, Barnes. Subs: Heaton, Taylor, Marney, Vokes, Hendrick, Walters, Bardsley.