Friday, March 6, 2015

Was MLS Behind Sabotaging the Cosmos Stadium Bid? Sadly, Yes. It Wasn't Smart.

A guest post by a supporter of this blog Deacon Joseph Suaiden aka "The Soccer Deacon" on Twitter that can only be described in one way. Eye opening!



Was MLS Behind Sabotaging the Cosmos Stadium Bid? Sadly, Yes. It Wasn't Smart.

"All is fair in love and football", tweeted Nick Chavez of NYCFC's Third Rail supporters group in response to reports that MLS had lobbied New York politicians in an effort to derail the New York Cosmos stadium bid. The $300 million, privately financed stadium proposal in Belmont was sent to the Empire State Development Corporation in January, 2013.(1) More than two years have passed, but it is only coming to light now that MLS had been quietly lobbying against the stadium.

The original New York Cosmos team never had their own stadium, but modern realities necessitated a new stadium to remain a competitive draw outside of Major League Soccer, which made the construction of soccer stadiums central to their plans. While the plan generated positive buzz throughout the local community, many influential American "soccer voices" consistently maintained that either the Cosmos, who played outside MLS, didn't deserve a stadium or-- if they did deserve a stadium-- that it should be part of an MLS bid.(2) While the plan had wide political support at first, only a single senator came out against it, wanting a shopping mall instead. (3)

The largest body openly opposed was the Elmont Community Coalition Council, a local community group previously known largely for organizing "Meet the Candidates" meetings for local elections. Little is known about the group, but within two months of Carrie Solages' declaration of opposition, the group was running advertisements against the stadium bid (that strangely looked like they were recorded on a private camcorder) on both television and 1010 WINS, New York's local 24-hour news station. Curiously, the verbiage was almost identical to the anti-Cosmos stadium arguments on internet forums, and the commercials were timed to run at the start of the 2013 NASL fall season, with pictures of halftime of a total of three games played in Shuart stadium.(4)

As could be expected, the buzz around the commercials as well as the political gamesmanship delaying a decision on the stadium were likely contributors to the decline in the Cosmos attendance in the fall: in fact, by fall 2014, the club's attendance hit rock bottom at 3,924, but bounced back towards the end of the season to about 9,000. One of the curious quirks of this negative focus on the Cosmos was a decreased home attendance, while witnessing comparatively high away attendance, particularly during the 2013 Fall Season and the 2014 Spring Season.

Despite suspicions on the part of Cosmos fans who committed to the NASL club that MLS had been deliberately attempting to sabotage the growth of the Cosmos with what was-- at the time-- a nebulous entity in NYCFC through one-upmanship on press releases and connections in the press, it was only after Leo Glickman, Cosmos fan and New York civil rights attorney, discussed matters related to the stadium with New York State Assemblyman Francisco Moya, only to discover that in fact, MLS lobbyists had been pressuring local politicians to vote against the stadium.(5) The reasoning was simple enough: if the Cosmos won the stadium bid, it was virtually guaranteed that City Financial Group and the Yankees would *not* get a stadium. All the aforementioned arguments came down to this simple fact: if the Cosmos got the stadium, MLS' NY2 project wouldn't. New York politics would have mired such an attempt on MLS' part for years.

In the end, it may have all been for naught. By making unrealistic claims about stadium proposals in the five boroughs, NYCFC has ultimately doomed itself to Yankee Stadium for the foreseeable future. The Cosmos bid was carefully designed to avoid the pitfalls of NYC politics: by contrast, NYCFC, in a desire to one-up the insurgent NASL teams wrote political checks they couldn't cash. Meanwhile, the Cosmos brand was damaged, but not destroyed: the NASL club brought on Spanish legend Raul as a sign that no matter where they played, they would continue to bring the highest class of player to the pitch, and attendance will likely stabilize this year with the gloss of a magical "MLS New York 2 team" replaced by the reality of a generic MLS team playing in a baseball stadium. Meanwhile, NYCFC has placed itself directly into the lions' den of New York politics, its only refuge a Yankee Stadium which is reluctant to keep it as a long-term tenant.(6) By derailing the Cosmos' bid, MLS and NYCFC may well have doomed any efforts to build a soccer stadium in the immediate region of New York City for the foreseeable future.

All is fair, indeed.

End notes

(2)In fact, the top searches on Google for "Cosmos Stadium Bid" produce opposition from a number of sports websites, an impressive feat on their own. A sampling include Bleacher Report (, Howler, which inaccurately reported that the Cosmos were still planning to join MLS, largely due to the fact that there had been following of MLS fans calling for a team in Queens (
Further, a wide variety of contributors to the "BigSoccer" forum, many of whom were either heavily involved with MLS to varying degrees, some of whom are writers or bloggers for other venues, expended literally hundreds of man-hours in opposition to the Cosmos having a stadium in NASL or predicting its failure. (If you have the stomach, Google produced a fantastic collation of results. Disclosure: my words are also on the site, usually arguing with one or many of these fans.
(5) Mr. Glickman's commentary and explanation is extensive for Twitter commentary, noting that MLS was the top lobbyist in 2013, and that Assemblyman Francisco Moya confirmed that MLS representatives were lobbying against the Cosmos stadium. It is worth noting that Assemblyman Moya was involved in the public "friendly wager" about whether an MLS club would arrive in Queens or the Bronx in the summer (
His comment about Moya is here.
Clarifying further that MLS was behind the lobbying.
That MLS was top lobbyist in 2013.

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