The revived New York Cosmos announced the signing of Villarreal legend and European Champion Marcos Senna on Thursday. Senna’s signing is further indication that the revived Cosmos, now in the second-tier of football in America, the North American Soccer League (NASL) are serious about building a high-level side despite the restriction of not being in the American top-flight league.
Senna is coming off a season where he helped Villarreal achieve a swift return to the Spanish First Division after being relegated at the conclusion of the 2011-12 season. A holding midfielder who helped lead Spain to the 2008 European Championship title, Senna adds a recognizable face to the American second division (NASL).
Currently, the eight-team NASL has recognizable brand names including the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and Tampa Bay Rowdies but lacks a single player of Senna pedigree and visibility.
Last week, the Cosmos announced a shirt sponsorship deal with Emirates Airlines that places the iconic American brand alongside that of Arsenal, Paris Saint German, Hamburg and AC Milan. The sponsorship deal was seen in many quarters as a legitimizing event that brought the Cosmos into a league of its own as far kit deals are concerned.
The Cosmos have lofty ambitions to be the biggest club in the United States. But sitting outside the top tier of American soccer in a structure that does not have performance based promotion and relegation, the Cosmos have a mountain to climb to even prove relevance to the average New York City area fan. Promotion and Relegation contrary to popular belief does exist in the United States but just not in the traditional performance based form. The four newest MLS sides all were “promoted” from the second division due to economic considerations. Previously multiple teams have dropped divisions in the football pyramid also due to economic reasons.
Major League Soccer’s announcement last month of a new club in New York City owned jointly by Manchester City FC and the New York Yankees is sure to have put a monkey wrench into the Cosmos ambition level. The new club named New York City FC will begin play in 2015. However, the Borough Boys — a local supporters group that was advocating MLS expansion to New York City — expressed disappointment in the MLS decision and have opted to continue supporting the Cosmos. This provided a big boost locally for the Cosmos.
This week the Cosmos also announced a national TV deal with One World Sports beginning with the opening game for the team on August 3rd against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. Major League Soccer has national TV deals in place with ESPN, Univision and NBC but no single club has ever signed a national TV deal prior to the Cosmos.
The Cosmos also have submitted a proposal to build a stadium at Belmont Park. Should this stadium plan clear the local political hurdles, it will put pressure on the MLS startup to build a soccer-specific stadium sooner rather than later.
The moves made in recent weeks by the Cosmos means that the battle for New York City is just heating up. Major League Soccer holds the upper hand with the New York City FC startup but the New York Cosmos of the NASL are not going quietly into the night.