Pele. Franz Beckenbauer. Giorgio Chinaglia. Carlos Alberto. Shep Messing. Legendary players who helped the New York Cosmos version one fill up New Jersey’s Giants Stadium in the 1970s. By the early 80s, Mick Jagger and Henry Kissinger stopped popping in for post-match champagne and the most famous soccer club in American history folded.
Could signing an international legend make the new Cosmos shine again?
The resurrected Cosmos 2.0 plays in the second-tier NASL and far from New York’s bright lights at suburban Nassau County’s Hofstra University. Powered by Marcos Senna, one of the key stars of Spain’s Euro 2008 winning squad, the new Cosmos won the 2013 NASL Soccer Bowl championship in just their first season of existence.
Their crowds, aside from their debut match, have been between 3,000 and 6,000. Decent, but nothing spectacular. Hofstra University’s stadium is a two mile walk from the nearest Long Island Rail Road station, which makes it almost impossible for New York City’s soccer-loving citizens to get there without a car. NYC ranks lowest, by far, in car ownership among American cities. The Cosmos have ambitious plans to build their own stadium next to the legendary Belmont Park horse track. Located on the Queens-Nassau border it would still be far from the young soccer fanatics in Manhattan and Brooklyn, who fill up the pubs every Saturday and Sunday morning but at least Belmont has its own LIRR station.
Stadium aside, the Cosmos can look no further than two rivers away where signing Thierry Henry brought the Red Bulls to new heights of recognition and success.
Enter Raúl. According to various sources, the Cosmos have signed the greatest goalscorer in Real Madrid’s glittering history. During his time Real won La Liga six times and the Champions League thrice. He retired from international football as Spain’s all-time leading goalscorer. And like Henry, he’s a charming and handsome man. Looks-wise he’s like an Iberian mix of Jason Lee and Steve Coogan.
While he’s 37 years old, the Cosmos will benefit greatly by having a player of his caliber who can thrill the crowd by filling up his boots with goals. Even if Raúl’s presence isn’t enough to convince more fans to make the trek out to central Nassau, he’s sure to attract more eyes to SNY, the local cable channel that broadcasts the club’s matches.
With NYCFC set to finally deliver soccer within the city limits next spring, the Cosmos will be desperate to stay relevant. That begins first with winning, but championships alone won’t be enough so long as they’re in the second tier. The club must honor its name and pedigree by signing more players like Raúl.