Call it a foul season.
The New York Cosmos and the league it competes in, the North American Soccer League, cancelled their 2018 season after the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled on Feb. 23 to boot the league from the division it has played in for the past five seasons, the league announced on Feb. 27.
A club spokesman told this paper last year that the Cosmos would cease to exist if it was forced to play in a lower league, but said on Feb. 28 that the team would not be permanently shut down, and that the league would instead field a “B team” in the National Premier Soccer League, which has no official designation from the U.S. Soccer Federation, the sport’s national governing body. Two other North American Soccer League teams — the Jacksonville Armada FC and Miami FC — will also have other squads play in the Premier League, which will begin its season on April 15.
“In years past, the B team has been more of a developmental squad for the main Cosmos team,” said a spokesman for the team. “The players on the team have always been a mix of aspiring professionals and regular Cosmos players who were not getting enough playing time with the main club.”
Last 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 play in that 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.
Cosmos owner and Italian cable magnate Rocco Commisso vowed to fight the ruling, so the league — which was formed in 1967 — challenged the federation’s decision in early November through the U.S. Court of Appeals. Soon after, a long list of local pols — including the borough’s native son Sen. Chuck Schumer — sent letters to the governing body calling for it to keep the Cosmos alive, citing the hundreds of jobs the team brings to the Coney Island community.
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 10 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 Cosmos 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.
The North American Soccer League’s interim commissioner, Rishi Sehgal, said in a statement that the league will now focus on returning to the field for the 2019 season, and that it will also take certain members of the federation’s board to court “for conflicts of interest and derelictions of duty which have harmed the NASL and countless other constituents in U.S. Soccer.”