SBJ/Nov. 4-10, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Stars align in Cosmos’ return on, off the field

In their return to NASL play for the first time since 1985, the New York Cosmos this fall met their budget, ranked first among clubs in attendance and, on the field, advanced to the league’s championship match on Saturday.

“I don’t think we could ask for any more than what we’ve accomplished so far,” said Cosmos Chief Operating Officer Erik Stover.

The Cosmos qualified for the NASL’s Soccer Bowl, and stayed on budget.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
The Cosmos won the NASL’s fall season, qualifying for the NASL Soccer Bowl in Atlanta this weekend. For the season, New York averaged a league-high 6,859 fans per game over its seven home matches at Shuart Stadium, on the campus of Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. The club’s home opener, which was highlighted by an appearance by former Cosmos star Pelé, drew a capacity crowd of more than 11,000. For the rest of the club’s home season, attendance averaged more than 6,000 per game — still well above the leaguewide average for the fall.

The NASL has two seasons within one year. The Atlanta Silverbacks, by winning the spring season, earned home field for the title match and will host New York on Saturday.

San Antonio ranked second in the eight-team league heading into the NASL’s regular-season finales this past weekend. But it was the return of the Cosmos that dominated the NASL fall story lines.

Stover declined to discuss the team’s financials other than to say the club “finished the season on-budget.” Among the team’s expenses was aggressively marketing in the central transportation destinations of the New York area, including hiring part-time staff to hand out schedules and ticket information at Penn Station.

“With any startup, being profitable wasn’t really the goal for the first year,” Stover said. “We’re working on a five-year ramp-up: Within five years, we would like to be in a new stadium and competing very successfully in the NASL, contending for the U.S. Open Cup, building our academy, and developing our first team into a nationally recognizable group of players.”

The biggest challenge might be completing a deal for that stadium. The Cosmos continue to wait for a decision by the Empire State Development Corp. on a proposed $400 million mixed-use development that would include a 25,000-seat stadium and would be adjacent to Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y. Stover said the club hopes to hear about its proposal by the end of the year.

Stover also said merchandising was a strong revenue stream for the Cosmos. “Our per caps were very high, significantly higher than your typical soccer team in the U.S.,” he said, declining to divulge specifics. Before joining the Cosmos, Stover was managing director of the MLS New York Red Bulls.

Cosmos executives are in discussions with Nike on an extension of the company’s deal to be the team’s kit supplier; their current pact was for 2013 only. While the club’s three-year jersey sponsorship deal with Emirates for $1 million was a significant haul for an NASL franchise, the Cosmos also made smaller deals with Coca-Cola, Sam Adams and local companies.

NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson said he was gratified by the impact the Cosmos made in their debut season.
“They did a terrific job as caretakers for a global brand by winning, getting some attention and performing like a highly professional organization,” said Peterson, whose league will add clubs in Indianapolis, Virginia and Ottawa in the 2104 spring season.

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