New York Cosmos, the darlings of the North American Soccer League and the primary brand name keeping the league afloat, is experiencing financial woes that threaten their very existence. Dave Martinez of Empire of Soccer has the full report of the Cosmos being unable to pay staff, putting ticket sales on hold, and looking to sell off players at an alarming rate.
New York Cosmos Money Woes Mean the End is Near for the NASL
While there seems to be every intention of playing the 2017 season, Martinez implies that a lot of signs point to the end of the Cosmos franchise. They don’t have a home venue for next year, they aren’t selling tickets yet, and are cutting staff and selling off players like there’s not tomorrow.
This paints a gloomy picture, and not just for the New York Cosmos. The fate of the entire NASL rests with them. They are their large market with both the past history and one time future potential that the league as hoping to build on. They were supposed to be the driving force that would allow the league compete with, and eventually overtake, MLS. If the Cosmos fail, what hope is there for the rest of the embattled league?
Just More Trouble for the NASL
The NASL has been going through an existential crisis for some time now. Ottawa Fury and Tampa Bay Rowdies are jumping ship for the technically lower tier United Soccer League because they can better control operating costs down there. Minnesota United is leaving the league for MLS in 2017. Those clubs represent three of the top four attendance numbers in the league. Only Indy Eleven is remaining in the top four.
Rayo OKC’s primary investors pull out after Rayo Vallecano was relegated from La Liga. They don’t have solid plans for next season. They have no coach, no staff, and don’t even know which city they would play in.
Fort Lauderdale Strikers had trouble paying their players and employees all season long. Now they are being sued by Rowdies owner Bill Edwards for defaulting on a loan payment. They were last in league attendance this season. Their current owners are looking into either selling the team or giving it up the league ownership.
Throw the Cosmos onto this list and half of the NASL’s 12 clubs from 2016 are either leaving the league are in serious danger of folding.
The End of the Cosmos Would Be the End of the NASL
Even while all these clubs are jumping ship and/or ceasing operations, the Cosmos were the glue holding everything together. They had the brand name, the adopted history, and the large market potential the league needed. Yes, Indy Eleven have had a wonderful season on the pitch with their appearance in the championship game and off the pitch with near league leading attendance numbers, but they aren’t the brand name that can propel a league with the NASL’s ambitions. Miami FC has a promising future, but their very existence is helping kill off the Strikers. Fort Lauderdale saw a 70% decrease in attendance figures from 2015, more than any other team. A lot of that drop was due to a highly marketed franchise in the same league and same media market showing up and pilfering their fans.
If the Cosmos do, in fact, fold, the NASL would be left with a nine team league for 2017 at the moment, even with San Francisco Deltas coming in. This isn’t accounting for the financial troubles that are also causing concern for the futures of Rayo OKC and Fort Lauderdale. It’s entirely possible that the league only has seven clubs for next season. This spells disaster for the league’s present and future.
Being unable to hold onto teams year in and year out raises some important questions. With teams dropping out every season, what right minded investor would want to start a franchise in the NASL, a league that cannot keep it’s most successful team alive? With no teams coming in, how can the league hope to hang onto D2 status, let alone pursue D1? These threaten the goals of the league to the point where abandoning them is the only hope for survival.
They NASL can live on, just not as a league looking to challenge MLS and remain above the USL. They would just have to dial themselves back, stop trying to invade markets where the other two leagues, or even themselves, already have a solid presence. But, most of all, they must make sure the Cosmos, and other troubled clubs, stay around. Else there will be no more league to save.