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MLS Expansion-Part Two: New York and the Cosmos

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The Northeast and Northwest United States are both where the largest concentration of MLS teams lie. This can be attributed both to the populations there, but also to the legacy of the NASL. For all the shame that should be attributed to having a team named the Caribous of Colorado, they can look upon the Sounders, Timbers, and Whitecaps and see the ground they laid return as fervent passion for soccer that the fans maintained until joining MLS in the last decade.

It may seem like a digression to discuss the Northwest when discussing the Northeast, but there is really only one expansion option in the Northeast corridor. The idea of bringing back NASL's most famous and popular club, the New York Cosmos is at the forefront of MLS expansion. Barring a complete failure, the likelihood that the 20th team is from New York is almost a foregone conclusion.

On the list I posted yesterday, there was only one other market in the northeast that was available for expansion: Baltimore. However, until D.C. United settles its stadium debacle, the Baltimore market seems ready to scoop that team up, not start a brand new franchise. So, this will be post mostly about the Cosmos.

New York

Market Size

New York is obviously the largest market in the United States. It supports multiple teams in every major sport other than soccer. After the Nets move to Brooklyn, every one of those teams will be located in New York City., except for the NFL and the Red Bulls. Obviously, they have the population to fill a stadium, and the rivalry with NYRB should provide leverage for TV negotiations for the MLS.

Soccer History

This is the whole reason for the Cosmos being the team chosen to expand. When they signed Pele, soccer was a non-entity in American sports. Although the bubble created by the Cosmos burst, the success of Pele in a marketing sense helped enable the MLS and more specifically the Beckham experiment. The Cosmos were so popular that they could pull players out of Europe in their primes, even though the competition wasn't up to par, the money was. MLS might never be able to financially pull off what the Cosmos did, but it is notable that more DP's will come to the United States if there are more teams in New York or Los Angeles. Fairly or unfairly.

Stadium and Ownership

As of now, the problems associated with a stadium deal and the monetary demands of the MLS seem to be keeping any group from getting closer to sealing the deal. Over at the main soccer page, Jeremiah Oshan has covered this saga constantly over at the SBNation Soccer page.

Saudi Arabians Reportedly Buy Into New York Cosmos Brand - SBNation.com
What this means for the future of the Cosmos brand is obviously far from clear. The only current path to a viable top-flight soccer team would be to join MLS, but there have long been rumors that the Cosmos could just become an at-large team and tour the planet like a soccer version of the Harlem Globetrotters.

MLS Hopes To Get $100M For 20th Team, Halt Expansion There - SBNation.com
Abbott said that there are actually multiple ownership groups interested in operating a second New York team, so the Cosmos' return is not exactly a done deal. Las Vegas, Minnesota and Orlando were also mentioned as possible sites for team No. 20.

This makes a lot of sense from various angles. Most obviously, it serves to drive up the expansion fee the league can charge for team No. 20. That fee is largely expected to be as much as $100 million, which would be more than twice as much as any other team had to pay to get into the league.

The league wants a team in New York, so if anyone gets a stadium deal in place, they will win the bid. Unfortunately, the people with the land available to build are the Wilpons, and they lost so much in the Bernie Madoff ponzi scheme that they can't afford to post or build with the Mets problems to contend with as well. Ideally, they'd team up with the Cosmos group and pool their resources, but this isn't exactly an ideal world.

Sports Competition and Market Problems

There are currently nine major sports franchises in the New York area, six inside the five boroughs. The market is both over-saturated yet strangely still open for more teams. New York Red Bulls have had problems filling their stadium at times as all clubs do, but their stadium is in New Jersey (albeit not that far into New Jersey). I think a stadium in the city works better, but the Cosmos name needs to be attached. They have to create buzz that a "new" franchise will not bring, in my opinion.

Overview

Unless something completely falls through, this is where the 20th team will be. Unfortunately, for the MLS that seems to be occurring, and options like Orlando, Minneapolis, and Las Vegas look more appealing. I think it may be in their best interest to lower the posting fee if the ownership group puts all of the money into stadium construction. Luckily, the league isn't expanding soon, so there is still time to work out this deal. Nevertheless, you won't see me cry to long for New Yorkers if it falls through. They have a team nearby already, and perhaps they can live with that for now.