Official announcements abound today about NYCFC, a new MLS expansion club in New York. The team is a joint venture between the New York Yankees and Manchester City FC, and will begin play in the 2015 season. Negotiations are underway both for a temporary home and for a location to build a permanent stadium. Current hopes are for a stadium in Queens, possibly in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. This would be very close to the Mets’ home at Citi Field.
This isn’t NASL news, of course, but its impact on the New York Cosmos will be interesting to watch. The Cosmos are currently slated to begin NASL play for the Fall 2013 season, starting in August. The club currently have a full roster and their home opener is scheduled for 3 August against Fort Lauderdale.
The obvious question is how NASL play will fare in a city with two MLS teams. NY Red Bulls play in New Jersey, though of course they have the longest active NYC history. Cosmos will begin play in Hofstra Stadium on Long Island, and the FMCP site is roughly halfway in between as the crow flies. The proposed Cosmos stadium at Belmont Park would be even closer to the FMCP site — about five miles as the crow flies. Certainly there’s enough population in the region to support three teams, but it might prove difficult for the NASL team to get media and fan attention.
The more speculative question, though, is how the management team at Cosmos will react. Unlike the Indy Eleven, the Cosmos management team has clearly stated that their goal was to become the second NYC franchise in MLS. The front office contains a lot of major names — Pélé, Eric Cantona, Cobi Jones, Shep Messing. It’s not clear how involved they are, but will they stay active if Cosmos is not destined for MLS? What of the ownership group — are they willing to focus solely on NASL?
Ultimately Cosmos are important to NASL for several reasons. Adding a team in a prime market that can regularly fill seats (both home and away) is key for league sustainability. But the media buzz that a NYC team could generate would really help the league gain national attention. If that buzz is soaked up by the newest MLS team instead, that does no favors for NASL. But ultimately the league may be better off with a long-term New York presence, instead of a team with eyes on another league. Will the Cosmos management happily settle into that role?