Rocco Commisso went from interested observer to owner of the New York Cosmos and savior of the North American Soccer League in a little over 24 hours.
And though it came together quickly, it also took a lifetime.
An Italian immigrant and cable television magnate, Commisso’s name may have come out of nowhere to Cosmos fans but in a sense his move into American soccer power is the logical next step in a lifelong relationship with soccer that began on the beaches of southern Italy, was nurtured on the field at Columbia University, and grew with his love for The Old Lady.
Let’s take a step back, though, and recall the status of the Cosmos in late December 2016. Reigning champions of the NASL, financial troubles had the Cosmos releasing players from their contracts and putting their front office on furlough. The team looked set for at least a one year absence from the playing field, and there was a lot of smoke and certainly some fire regarding the potential demise of the NASL for a second time. It seemed probable the only silver lining was that the Cosmos would go out as champions.
Members of the Cosmos staff approached Commisso, 67, who was no stranger to ownership opportunities both here and abroad. Perhaps the closest he came was in 2011, when the DeBenedetto/Pallotta Group spoke with him about helping with their takeover of AS Roma. Commisso eventually declined, he says, because his Juventus fandom wouldn’t allow him to trade clubs.
The rare opportunity to save both a storied name and a growing league was too much to pass up, however.
And the sport had given him so much that he felt he owed it a debt. His Bronx high school did not field a soccer team in the 1960s, and Commisso needed help from his gym teacher to get interest from colleges, eventually winning a four-year scholarship to Columbia University. He became a three-time All-Ivy League player, and was invited to tryout for the 1972 U.S. Olympic Team.
Commisso also helped the Lions to the 1970 NCAA Tournament, scoring in a win over Buffalo State and future NBA star Randy Smith — “The highlight of my soccer life” — before using his degree to forge a wildly successful financial and media career.
“I tell everyone my experience on the soccer field at Columbia is the one that I remember the most and which I cherish the most,” said Commisso.
“The friendships and the things that I got back from the game of soccer were a stepping stone to all I’ve done since. It was soccer that opened the door to a great institution like Columbia and now it’s my job to give back to the game.”
The game remained a big part of his life. He started an over-30 league in Westchester County,was a youth coach for 15 years and has been involved with the Columbia soccer program for almost 50 years, both as a player and alumni supporter. The university’s soccer stadium was named after him, and he was never ignorant of the fortunes of Juventus back home in Italy.
So it didn’t come as a massive surprise to those who knew him well that the Cosmos idea would intrigue him. Approached by Cosmos staffers named Joe Barone and Jack Gaeta, who also played at Columbia, Commisso was sold on the project if the NASL maintained its Division 2 status and the Cosmos could hit the pitch this season.
“There were competing bids where people wanted to shut it down and shut up the name, or buy the intellectual property rights and try to sell it to somebody else,” Commisso said. “But in neither scenario was the team going to be around in 2017. I felt an obligation to help out, and my first condition when I entered the room was I’m only here to talk about the team playing a full season in 2017.”
The NASL was granted provisional D-2 status, and Commisso sealed the deal. Years after his first offers to own a team, he was doing it his adopted hometown of New York City.
There wasn’t much time to celebrate, but surely there’s been plenty to smile about. Right, Rocco?
“My smiles or my tears?” Commisso said. “This is not a typical business, like the cable business. The next day was the realization that we had to put the team together. The front office needed to be rehired. There were some emergencies that we had to deal with right at the outset. Making sure that Giovanni (Savarese) was staying around and convincing the existing players, there were only a few, that there was a club.”
And there was that whole question of where to play. The Cosmos of the first NASL had played at Yankee Stadium and Giants Stadium, while the second spent last season at Hofstra University on Long Island. Commisso wanted back in the City, though that had proven a major obstacle for soccer teams in the Empire State.
Somehow, they found a home: MCU Park in Brooklyn, home of New York-Penn League baseball team the Brooklyn Cyclones, an affiliate of the New York Mets.
“Just think about it,” Commisso said. “New York City FC still doesn’t have a soccer-specific stadium after four years.We finalized a stadium leaseand game schedules in less than a month. A great location in the Five Boroughs in a short period of time. Typically these things take years. We managed to strike a deal to bring the Cosmos back to New York City where it all began in 1971. Now we’ve gotta try to install a soccer field on top of the baseball field.
“The next major job is how to go out and fill up the stadium with fans. We went out and the appetite is very high. In the media and Twitter, so far I must say 99 percent of the comments are very positive by everyone, and especially the loyal Cosmos fans. Lots of work. We’re working day and night. Even though we don’t have the luxury of a five-month window before the start of the season, we will be ready by April 1. Gio has 16 or 17 players already signed up, so we’re almost finished filling up the team roster. We’re not there yet, but we are well on our way proceeding with Spring Training the next couple weeks.”
Commisso is careful not to guarantee much regarding his maiden voyage through the NASL. For one thing, he says, American soccer provides less opportunities for upward mobility than the rest of the world. For another, business has taught him to work harder than he speaks.
“I’ve been known my entire career for never, never making promises that I can’t deliver on,” Commisso said. “I’d rather under promise and over deliver than the other way around. As you know, plenty of people came to this country including the prior ownership of the Cosmos, where they were going to revolutionize the whole game, the whole system, and look what happened.Unfortunately, the road to establishing sustainable professional soccer in the U.S. has been littered with financial failures.”
“The simple problem is that I don’t control my destiny. You’ve got the NASL, the USSF, MLS, the USL, the stadium issue, the money… at least on the money side I’ll be okay. I’m not gonna run out of money tomorrow, but in terms of where I want to see the Cosmos, I don’t know what the future will hold, other than doing the job a day at a time.”
That’s fine. After all, here’s one of many tremendous immigrant stories, a man who built from nothing the fifth largest cable television company in America which is wholly-owned by him and his family, and who fashioned an accolade-heavy college career without having played organized soccer before college.
“I started playing with a soccer ball that was a bunch of rags tied up with rubber bands, some underwear, too,” Commisso said of his early playing days in Italy.
“I lived in a beach town in Calabria where in the summer we played on sand and in winter in the streets. It was never organized, was always pick-up games. You showed up and the big boys decided if they needed you. Because I was the only kid crazy enough to dive on concrete, they always chose me as goalie. That was the nature of my training, not like the kids today where their playing time is organized by the parents.”
And of course, there was Juventus. Commisso was a young fan for a terrific spell that saw The Old Lady win three titles in four seasons with Welsh star John Charles, fiery Argentine forward Omar Sivori, and Giampiero Boniperti(an attack trio that in some ways calls to mind Barcelona’s current trident).
But what stands out to Commisso is what happened after Juventus was relegated following the Calciopoli scandal a little over a decade ago.
“I knew I would be one of those people who stayed with the team when things got bad,” he said. “In 2006, Buffon and Del Piero, world-class icons of international soccer, they went down with the team into the Second Division. And within one year, we came back up and now we have won five-straight Seria A championships.”
Perhaps there’s a bright ray of hope in there for Cosmos fans. No, they aren’t far removed from winning a title, but they are only weeks removed from thinking their club was lost. Now it’s off to Brooklyn, and there are many reasons to schedule a visit to MCU Park in Coney Island.
Tied at 0-0 from the first leg of the final in San Nicolas on Thursday, the advantage is with red-hot Chivas as their stunning recent form saw them win their final four games of the Clausura regular season to finish third in the table before beating Atlas and Club America in the playoffs.
Victor Guzman and Alexis Vega are Chivas’ main attacking threats as they will keep it tight defensively and the energy of the home crowd at Akron Stadium should be a huge help as Chivas aim to win their first Clausura title since 2017, when they also beat Tigres in the final.
Tigres finished seventh in the Clausura standings and beat Toluca and Monterrey to reach the final. The duo of Sebastian Cordova and Andre-Pierre Gignac are their main hope of winning on the road in Guadalajara and lifting the trophy.
Below is everything you need for Chivas vs Tigres, one of whom will be crowned as the Clausura champions on Sunday.
Borussia Dortmund gave the Bundesliga title to heated rivals Bayern Munich on a shocking final day in the Bundesliga, a stunning collapse that left a ready-to-party Westfalenstadion in mourners’ status.
Bayern took an early lead through Kingsley Coman at Koln and Dortmund went down 2-0 in the first half versus Mainz, missing a penalty that would’ve tied the score at 1.
Dortmund entered the day with the table lead and dominated Mainz to the tune of 26-7 in shots and 3.64-0.62 in expected goals, but Andreas Hanche-Olsen and Karim Onisiwo’s goals were enough as only Giovanni Reyna’s set-up of Raphael Guerreiro got Dortmund on the board in a 2-1 loss.
Koln briefly gave hope with a penalty equalizer in the 80th minute versus Bayern, but Jamal Musiala’s 89th-minute goal put the defending champions back in front.
Dortmund would’ve won the league by matching or bettering Bayern’s result and but Instead hand an 11th-straight Meisterschale to the Bavarians. No one has won more German top-flight titles than Bayern’s 33.
BVB remains on eight Bundesliga titles and remains one behind Nurnberg, which has not won since 1968.
MAINZ TAKE LEAD AT DORTMUND 🇩🇪 If results hold, Bayern win 11th straight German title. Bundesliga scriptwriters trying to one-up Premier League counterparts.pic.twitter.com/dXn5Ruk5If
Luton Town overcame a blown lead in regulation to earn a place in the Premier League by outlasting Coventry City in penalties during Saturday’s playoff final at Wembley Stadium.
USMNT goalkeeper Ethan Horvath watched as Fankaty Dabo’s penalty sailed over the goal to give the Hatters a 6-5 win after 120 minutes ended 1-1 and neither team missed on 11-straight attempts from the spot.
In 2018 Luton and Coventry were both in the fourth-tier of English football. Now Luton is joining Sheffield United and Burnley in the top flight.
Jordan Clark scored Luton Town’s goal, while Gustavo Hamer leveled the line for Coventry City.
Coventry City vs Luton Town as it happened:
GOAL! Luton’s taken the first five shots of the match and now one’s found the back of the goal. It’s Jordan Clark who belts home in the 23rd minute to put the Hatters on top! Luton Town, 1-0
CHANCE! It’s Elijah Adebayo, who assisted the opener, who can’t quite get a very decent chance right, as Luton is looking to put an early vice grip on the final. Still 1-0, 30′.
Shots are up to 9-0 in favor of the Hatters but the total xG is still below 1.00. Coventry has to wake up, but maybe they’d take getting to halftime down one at this point.
The 11th shot of the game is Coventry’s, and it’s a high volley that slashed over the goal. Off-balance and improbable, but Coventry will be hopeful it’s a sign that they’re coming into the affair; Soon after, a rush is bungled but into the Luton third.
HALFTIME: Luton Town 1, Coventry City 0 — (Clark 23′)
SECOND HALF: Coventry has more of the ball and is building off its late first half, but Luton looks well-drilled into its system despite the concession of some set pieces.
Good news on a scary-looking injury for Luton star Tom Lockyer:
We are able to report that after collapsing on the pitch, Tom Lockyer has been taken to hospital for further tests.
He is responsive and talking to his family, who are with him.
GOAL! And the Sky Blues are level! It’s Brazilian-born Dutch youth international Gustavo Hamer who has it so with a solid finish, though the playmaking’s come from star performer Viktor Gyokeres. It’s all on now at Wembley! 1-1, 66′
A dangerous free kick in stoppage time for Luton after a very questionable foul, but fate makes sure this one doesn’t end with ignominy. Are we headed for penalties? Extra time is almost certain deep in stoppage.
xG is basically even after 90 minutes, as are shot attempts, and anything can happen when it comes to the 20th berth in the 2023-24 Premier League season.
END OF 90: Coventry City 1, Luton Town 1 — (Clark 23′, Hamer 66′)
INJURY! USMNT keeper Ethan Horvath is down for treatment 11 minutes into the first frame of extra time, which has otherwise been a scrappy period. Looks like he’s going to try to continue despite dropping to the pitch after a long goal kick.
END OF FIRST ET PERIOD: Coventry City 1, Luton Town 1 — (Clark 23′, Hamer 66′)
Not much happened there. Nerves? Can someone seize history in the next 15 or will we go to pens?
NO GOAL! Joe Taylor has it in the goal for Luton off a bad giveaway but VAR, not used in the regular season, spots a handball and the Hatters won’t win it here. We’re going to penalties.
END OF SECOND ET PERIOD: Coventry City 1, Luton Town 1 — (Clark 23′, Hamer 66′)
Horvath was a penalty hero for the USMNT in the CONCACAF Nations League against Mexico, while well-traveled Ben Wilson is between the sticks for Coventry. Here we go…
X Carlton Morris goal for Luton 1-0
X Matty Godden goal for Coventry 1-1
X Taylor goal for Luton 2-1
X Viktor Gyokeres goal for Coventry 2-2
X Marvelous Nakamba goal for Luton 3-2
X Ben Sheaf goal for Coventry 3-3
X Jordan Clark goal for Luton 4-3
X Josh Eccles goal for Coventry 4-4
X Luke Berry goal for Luton 5-4
X Liam Kelly goal for Coventry 5-5
X Daniel Potts goal for Luton 6-5
X Fankaty Dabo miss for Coventry 6-5
Coventry City vs Luton Town player ratings: Stars of the Show
The managers and star players
Luton Town boss Rob Edwards left rival club Watford in November and the risky maneuver has paid off for the coach and club. Viktor Gyokeres is the club’s 21-goal scoring hero and he’s chipped in 11 assists as well, and Gustavo Hamer has been sensational as well.
Coventry City manager Mark Robins has been with the club since 2017 and it’s been up-up-up. Carlton Morris leads the way with 20 goals, while Alfie Doughty and Tom Lockyer have been key players, too, with Lockyer scoring in three of the Hatters’ last four matches.
Championship playoff schedule, how to watch, updates
Dates: Final – Saturday, May 27 at 11:45am ET Updates: Via scoreboard on NBCSports.com How to watch: ESPN+
Can Manchester United’s new-look side keep its place in the top four? What about Newcastle? Is Tottenham going to turn things around to claim a place or will another new name, Brighton or Aston Villa, make their claim? Liverpool’s not out of this, either…
How will the new boys get on? Who will be the surprise package? Can Chelsea salvage any pride from the season? Who will stay up in the congested scrap against relegation?
Those questions will be answered from August 2022 to May 2023, with the full list of Premier League fixtures.
While below are the answers to all of the questions you have around the Premier League fixtures and everything else you need to know for the upcoming season, with full details on the Premier League TV schedule across the NBC family of channels and more.
The Premier League fixtures for the 2022-23 season were announced on Thursday June 16, 2022 at 4am ET. Below is the full schedule, as you can watch all 380 games across our NBC platforms.
The Premier League fixture computer decides who plays who and when, as teams located close to one another are usually playing at home on opposite weekends to help with policing, crowd control and transport congestion in those areas.
When did the Premier League take a break for the 2022 World Cup?
When will the 2022-23 Premier League season finish?
The final day of the season will be on Sunday, May 28, 2023.
Which teams will compete in the 2022-23 Premier League?
These are the 20 teams which will compete in the Premier League for the upcoming season:
Arsenal, Aston Villa, Bournemouth, Brentford, Brighton and Hove Albion, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Everton, Fulham, Leeds United, Leicester City, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Newcastle United, Nottingham Forest, Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United, Wolverhampton Wanderers