He won’t let them kick the Cosmos to the can.
Brooklyn-born Sen. Chuck Schumer joined a long list of Brooklyn pols when he called on the U.S. Soccer Federation earlier this month to protect his hometown soccer team from extinction by allowing it to continue playing in the same division it has played in for the past five seasons rather than banish it to a lower division, which could spell the end of both the team and the league it plays in.
The national organization, which acts as the official governing body for the sport, has a responsibility to keep the New York Cosmos alive — not just for the sake of the players, but also for the sake of the Coney Island community that has come to depend on the jobs and economic stimulus that the team has created at its MCU Park home, Schumer said in a Nov. 8 statement.
“From the profitable sponsorship deals to the steady job creation that the New York Cosmos have brought to Coney Island and Brooklyn at large, it’s clear that a division-two status is a win-win for the region,” Schumer said. “I’m urging the U.S. Soccer Federation to reconsider its decision and support a division two status for the North American Soccer League so that teams like the New York Cosmos can continue to thrive.”
In September, the U.S. Soccer Federation denied the North American Soccer League second-division status for the 2018 season, meaning that the Cosmos and the six other teams that currently play in the league would be forced to apply for third-division status, which would bring with it fewer sponsors, lower salaries for the players and coaches, and a lower level of competition, according to a Cosmos spokesman.
Worse, the U.S. Soccer Federation denied the league second-division status, the spokesman said, based on two arbitrary rules that it had never strictly enforced before: that the league must have twelve teams, and that they must play in at least three out of four time zones. At the time of the ruling, the North American Soccer League only played in two time zones with eight teams, the spokesman said.
Shortly after the September ruling, Cosmos owner and Italian cable magnate Rocco Commisso vowed to fight it but said nothing about the team’s plans to play as a division-three squad next year, Crain’s New York reported. But the club spokesman said the league and the teams in it — including the Cosmos — would cease to exist if they were forced to play in the lower tier.
The North American Soccer League, which was formed in 1967, appealed the U.S. Soccer Federation’s decision on Nov. 4 through the U.S. Court of Appeals, according to the Cosmos’s spokesman. The next court date is in mid-December.
A spokeswoman from Schumer’s office said both the senator and his staff are “avid soccer fans — from Brooklyn’s many youth soccer groups to the Cosmos,” which contributed to his advocating on behalf of the team. Borough President Adams, Public Advocate Letitia James, Councilman Mark Treyger (D–Coney Island), Councilman Chaim Deutsch (D–Sheepshead Bay), and Councilman Vincent Gentile (D–Bay Ridge) all also sent letters to the U.S. Soccer Federation this month urging them to re-consider the ruling in order to save the Cosmos and the hundreds of jobs that the team spokesman said it brings to the Coney Island community, including 75 players and technical staff.
The Cosmos joined the North American Soccer League in 1971 and became a team to watch four years later when the club signed Brazilian legend Pelé, who became the world’s highest-paid athlete at the time, according to Crain’s. But ten years later, the league crumbled, leaving the Cosmos nonexistent until the league resurfaced in 2009 and the revived team rejoined it four years later.
Commisso bought the team last December after it reportedly sustained $30 million in losses, and he promptly moved the club from its ill-fated Hofstra University home on Long Island to Coney Island’s 7,000-seat MCU Park stadium.
A local business owner said that his restaurant has seen a clear and specific uptick in business since the Cosmos moved to Coney earlier this year, and that the team’s arrival represented even more economic development in the rapidly-changing nabe.
“When there’s a game at 7 pm, at 4 pm, when there’d be nobody in the restaurant, now we have customers coming in for an early dinner before they go to a game,” said Nino Russo, a co-owner of Gargiulo’s, the 110-year-old Italian eatery and neighborhood institution. “[The Cosmos are] one more thing that people can come to, and it’s a positive impact for the entire neighborhood. I hope that they stay. It’s great for the whole area.”
The U.S. Soccer Federation did not reply to repeated requests for comment.