SBD/August 5, 2013/Franchises

Cosmos Draw Sellout For First Game In 29 Years, But Execs See Room For Growth

An announced crowd of nearly 12,000 saw the Cosmos win their home opener
The NASL N.Y. Cosmos on Saturday marked their return to professional sports "after 29 years of dormancy" as they hosted the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers at Hofstra Univ.'s Shuart Stadium, and Long Island "earned itself another professional soccer team," according to Laura Albanese of NEWSDAY. The scene was "almost carnival-like, with a long, snaking line of cars that threatened to take over big chunks of Earle Ovington Boulevard." But the crowd at times was "almost demure -- the chants, when they emerged, suffered from lack of practice; there was nary a vuvuzela to be had." One of the "biggest rises came when Pelé, 72 years old, nearly four decades retired and still the face of this team, sauntered onto the pitch during a pregame ceremony and raised his waving hands to the stands" (NEWSDAY, 8/4). In N.Y., Justin Tasch reported the game was played "in front of an energetic, packed house of 11,929 fans -- an announced sellout, though there were empty seats in the corners" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/4). Cosmos COO Erik Stover said, "We are very aware that this is not 1977 and this isn't the old days of the Cosmos. We think we can do something special but it needs to be built up. We can't start at that level overnight." The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jonathan Clegg wrote, "Perhaps the biggest challenge facing the Cosmos is establishing a fan base in what is becoming an increasingly crowded local landscape for professional soccer." The franchise was "once the only show in town when it came to soccer," but will "soon share a city with two other professional teams, both of which will be competing in MLS" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/3). 

RETURN TO ORBIT: SPORTS ON EARTH's Howard Megdal wrote the crowd at the game "wasn't simply a group of graying nostalgia-seekers, though plenty of faded Pele jerseys could be seen mixed in with the shiny, obviously just-purchased editions." The supporter groups were "loud, and they were plentiful in number." The fans "took a while to figure out precisely how to root not for the Cosmos as idea, but as actual team." By the second half, they had "found their way nicely." The Cosmos shop was "easily the most popular spot at halftime." The game was "often entertaining soccer; ultimately, it was winning soccer." But the Cosmos have a "lot more to do before recreating a cultural phenomenon." It can "hardly be said that the Cosmos are going about this the wrong way, exactly." No one has "figured out how to conquer New York soccer yet" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 8/4).

EXPANSIVE VIEW: YAHOO SPORTS' Tess Quinlan noted Stover "admits he isn't sure if the Cosmos' long-terms future will be in MLS," but the "uncertainly isn't stopping the club from pursuing plans to build a privately funded, 25,000-seat stadium at Belmont Park." Stover said of the possibility of the Cosmos joining MLS as an expansion team, "We don't worry about it. Our focus -- we talk about this all the time -- is building a proper club" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/4).
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