Soccer-wise, he’s come full circle.
Mediacom CEO Rocco Commisso has been around soccer for as long as he can remember. He grew up playing the sport, competed at Columbia University and even has a stadium named after him at the Lions athletic complex in Manhattan. He knew it was only a matter of time before he’d own a soccer team.
That time came in December.
Commisso rode to the rescue of the New York Cosmos, purchasing a majority stake in the once-famed, but now struggling, North American Soccer League club and keeping it afloat after it had all but shut down operations.
“My whole career has been like this. I always liked the underdog status and making something out of a shambles,” Commisso said.
Now the team is set to make its Coney Island debut, opening its home schedule at MCU Park on April 1. The Cosmos’ new chairman has spent the better part of the last five months learning the ins and outs of managing a team, and his initial goal is simple — fill seats.
“It’s just about getting fans to the stadium,” he said. “Hopefully Brooklyn will help show support to the Cosmos so I can feel proud when I go there. It’s as simple as that.”
Commisso outbid two other suitors to buy the team, saying he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to save a franchise whose roster once boasted such soccer legends as Pele, Giorgio Chinaglia, Carlos Alberto and Franz Beckenbauer, and has defined American soccer for decades.
“The team was either going to be sold and shut down or the memorabilia and intellectual property was going to be sold to somebody else and then he was going to monetize it and make money out of it,” he said. “I just couldn’t see that.”
Commisso realizes that buying the team is just the beginning, and he harbors no illusions about what it’s going to take to rebuild the fortunes of the Cosmos in particular — and American soccer in general.
“Everybody’s bragging what a great job we’re all doing with American soccer. No, we’re not doing a great job,” Commisso said. “I could go on and on. I know a lot of stuff and I want to talk about it. Sooner or later I will have my say, loudly, as to the future of American soccer and professional soccer in this country.”
For now, Commisso is content to focus his fix-it ideas on the Cosmos in Brooklyn. He’s retained much of the team’s front office staff — including COO Erik Stover and manager Gio Savarese — and is hopeful about the possibility of building a soccer-only stadium in the city.
“I’ve been running a company for a long time and I’m a little older and if I was going to do anything it was going to be now,” he said. “I liked the idea; it’s part of who I am.”