MIAMI - The story of Pele and the New
York Cosmos was captured in a documentary called "Once in a
Lifetime" but plans for the reformed club to join Major League
Soccer may be a case of history repeating itself.
The original Cosmos, featuring Pele and Franz Beckenbauer
in the 1970s, took soccer in the U.S. from a kids' pastime to
glitzy big time news, filling the old Giants Stadium for games
against teams like the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
But when the North American Soccer League - complete with
garish jerseys, synthetic fields and novel rule changes -
vanished in a pile of debt in the early 1980s, the dream of the
Cosmos becoming an established force in the global game died
Now though, British investors are looking to get the Cosmos
back into professional football, reforming the club and
beginning talks to get the team into Major League Soccer, which
has been steadily growing since beginning play in 1996.
On Wednesday, the Cosmos announced that former Manchester
United and France favourite Eric Cantona was their new director
While there may be the air of publicity stunt around that
appointment - the Cosmos do not yet have a team or a stadium -
there is no doubt that serious plans are being put in place to
bring the new Cosmos into the professional arena.
Dan Courtemanche, head of communications for MLS, told
Reuters on Wednesday that the league has held several meetings
with the Cosmos, who are chaired by former Tottenham Hotspur
director Paul Kemsley and who boast Pele as honourary
"The meetings have been very productive and we have more
meetings scheduled with them in the very near future. We have
been very impressed with their vision, commitment and passion
for the sport and also for the legacy of the Cosmos brand,"
"They have a vision of how to make this storied football
brand, hip and relevant for today's marketplace and their goal
is, as they have stated, to be able to launch as an MLS club."
The Cosmos also have Rick Parry, former chief executive of
Liverpool and ex-head of England's Premier League, on their
board and former U.S international Cobi Jones as "associate
director of soccer."
Giorgio Chinaglia, the Italian who was a central figure in
the old Cosmos, is listed as the club's "international
ambassador" while Terry Byrne, a close friend of David
Beckham's, who has worked with the England national team and
the L.A. Galaxy, is vice-chairman.
MLS wants its 20th team to be based in New York - the
current team in the area, the New York Red Bulls, who feature
former Arsenal and France striker Thierry Henry, are based in
The major problem facing the Cosmos is the issue of a
"Like any potential owner for an MLS expansion team in New
York, they need to finalise a plan for a stadium, that is
clearly a significant obstacle but they are working hard on
it," said Courtemanche.
"We are certainly working hard to find a solution for a
stadium for a potential team and it could be where it is a
partnership with various groups, maybe one group comes in on
the stadium and another on the team.
"There continue to remain multiple scenarios for what could
occur for that 20th team."
The focus is on the borough of Queens and MLS have held
meetings in the past with the Wilpon family, owner of the New
York Mets baseball team.
"We do not have a stadium location yet but we are working
on it with potential investors, including the Cosmos, and we do
believe Queens would be a very successful location for an MLS
expansion team," said Courtemanche.
"There is a lot of interest in a potential second team in
the New York market."
In a recent interview with Sports Illustrated, Byrne, who
began his involvement in the game as a masseur at Chelsea, said
the team hopes to play some friendly games this year before
joining MLS in 2013.
That may be a very optimistic timeline but there is clearly
a will from MLS to embrace the Cosmos brand and the excitement
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