The reborn New York Cosmos have yet to play a competitive match, but they've managed to work themselves back into the soccer news cycle once again. This time, it's the unveiling of plans to build a $400 million soccer complex that would include a 25,000-seat stadium, as well as restaurants and shopping, in Belmont Park on Long Island.
The Cosmos have actually submitted their proposal to the state of New York and would need to get approval before breaking ground. Assuming that goes as planned, they say they would be able to open in time for the 2016 season.
"We plan to develop an iconic project for the region and build a state-of-the-art stadium that will make Nassau County and the entire region proud," Seamus O’Brien, Chairman and CEO of the New York Cosmos, said in a press release. "Belmont is an ideal location and a win-win for everyone involved. Nassau County and Elmont will realize much needed economic growth, and local residents will have a year-round premier destination they can call their own."
Considering the Cosmos are currently slated to return to competitive play in the second half of the upcoming NASL season and have publicly stated that they aren't interested in joining MLS, this may all sound a bit outrageous. And, frankly, it is. Building a 25,000-seat stadium to play, at best, second-tier soccer does not sound like a great business plan. Making it even a little crazier is the likelihood that there will be three state-of-the-art soccer facilities in the greater New York City area by the time this one opens.
As crazy as it sounds, there does seem to be some greater vision at work. While no one has gone on record, one imagines the plan goes a little like this:
- Build hype around North America's most famous soccer brand
- Sell a bunch of merchandise
- Build fancy new stadium
- Attract a handful of famous players
- Play some high-profile international friendlies
- Dominate their domestic league
- Win numerous U.S. Open Cups
- Win CONCACAF Champions League
- Compete in the Club World Cup against the biggest clubs in the world
Theoretically, this could all be accomplished without joining MLS. You might even say that it works even better -- in theory at least -- without having the various restrictions they'd be operating under if they played in the single-entity league. In essence, they'd be a soccer version of the Harlem Globetrotters, while also playing in a regular league.
Of course, this all works much better in theory than it promises to in practice. The biggest sticking point would be the Cosmos' ability to attract high-quality players. Even assuming this stadium gets built, there's really no reason to believe international stars are willing to play here, even if gobs of money are being thrown at them. After all, it's hard to imagine the same players who are turning up their noses at MLS until they are well past their prime would suddenly want to play in the NASL just because they got to wear a Cosmos shirt and maybe play against Barcelona in a semi-meaningful match.
Obviously, there are still a lot of the finer details that would need to be worked out. Even before they get to the point of signing players, the Cosmos owners have to make good on some of these promises. As we should know by now, there's a big difference between a pretty stadium rendering and actually building a pretty stadium. Unless there's some element that I'm missing, there's also plenty of reason to doubt this can be a remotely sustainable venture even if it all goes according to plan.
If the Cosmos owners are willing to finance this project, who am I to tell them they can't?