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.)
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.
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.