The 2019 regular NPSL season is upon us, and I could not be more excited! A lot has happened over the past year, and fans will be forgiven for not having kept up on what's happened since the end of the 2017 NASL season at MCU Park. To help, First Team Podcast will summarize some details as well as share what you need to know going forward into the 2019 season.
WHEN and where is season opener?
The Cosmos will be kicking off at 7pm, Saturday April 27th, against New York Athletic Club at Mitchel Athletic Complex in Uniondale, Long Island. Seats are general admission, and tickets are $12 for adults or $8 for children 14 and under. There is ample free parking, and tailgating is encouraged. The Five Points tailgate party will kick off around 4:30pm - come and meet the grillers, singers, drum beaters and flag wavers. They love to meet fans. Sharing some snack or beverage to share would not go amiss!
Concessions, run by the county, are expected to be available but could not be confirmed in time for this article.
Primary vehicle entry is opposite the Cradle of Aviation museum.
HOW do I get there via public transportation?
The closest LIRR stations are Mineola and Hempstead. Taxis from either are about $8-9 and a 12-15 minute ride. The address is for the overall lot, so offer taxi drivers the Globall Sports Center (indoor soccer place) as a point of reference. #CosmosCarPool is an informal Twitter hashtag around which fans can coordinate rides. Closest bus routes are the N71/72 @ Hemp Tpk+Manor Pk- Uniondale ave (SE, 0.6m to field), and the N43 @ Student Union Service Rd + Davis Av (NE, 0.4m to field).
HOW good can we expect this squad to be?
The organization has invested an unbelievable amount into talent this season. Signing the likes of Ricardo Bocanegra, Ansi Agolli, our captain Danny Szetela, and others, is a bold statement. Transfermarkt is a site tracking player transfers and contract values. While not comprehensive or perfect, it estimates the current squad's total contract value to be almost $2.5MM. This places the Cosmos comfortably into a mid-D2 side range of spend. And whether it's coach Gio or coach Carlos, we have a knack for selecting undervalued performers to wear the badge. Once again, the Cosmos honors their legacy of being the big fish of any pond it finds itself in.
While there may be a few changes prior to the Founders Cup, the bulk of the squad will be consistent throughout the year.
DID you say 'New York Athletic Club'?
Yes, -that- NYAC. NYAC is more than 'just' a gym or fitness center. Founded in 1868, it's closer to a traditional sporting club, fielding squads in a variety of sports. Since 2008, NYAC has sponsored a semipro mens soccer side. Their latest best showing was in 2015 when they qualified for the Northeast regional semifinals. While they put in a honorable effort when we played them last year, I'm not saying I don't like our chances.
WHAT is going on with the name, exactly? Are we the New York Cosmos, or New York Cosmos B?
Without going into the much larger story of WHY this is the case, our squad for the regular NPSL season is officially the New York Cosmos B. This is necessary as this is the side officially registered for the league, and for the US Open Cup. For the post-season Founders Cup tournament scheduled for August through November however, and going forward into the 2020 season and a likely new league, the first team will once again be front and center. Should the new league happen, a separate Cosmos B squad may again exist.
WHAT league are we actually playing in this year?
We are playing in the North Atlantic conference of the Northeast region of the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL). New York Cosmos B began play in this league in 2015.
In a country absent of an open pyramid system, NPSL and its 94 teams is a nationwide league widely considered a catch-basin for a mix of clubs with varying levels of ambition, ownership and squad quality. Many may refer to it as a D4 league but this is a misleading term without much meaning in a closed system. It is more accurate to say that NPSL operates at the highest level of US adult soccer just outside the fed's framework for controlling which clubs and leagues may participate within its sanctioning monopoly. For the past 12 years, it has operated as a stable platform for competitive play during the summer months. Sanctioned by the United States Adult Soccer Association (USASA), its clubs can sign professional players and international players in accordance with FIFA. In practice NPSL organizations find it difficult to get visas for international players.
WHAT is the Founders Cup?
The Founders Cup is, as Chris Kivlehan has coined, is a proof of concept. There are NPSL clubs who are left outside the USSF's context of 'professional' as defined by its selective application of PLS requirements, but with ambition for more. Some names might be familiar to Cosmos fans; a few have carved out a place for themselves in the national soccer landscape through sheer grit and a devout fanbase; others have been biding their time. For these clubs, there is the Founders Cup tournament.
In association with NPSL, who is interested in creating a professional space for those clubs left outside USSF Pro Land, the Founders Cup is an August to November tournament; it is a precursor to a new league expecting to kick off a first, full season in 2020. Informally referred to as 'NPSL Pro', it immediately drew support when USSF threatened action against any use of the term 'Pro' by any league not sanctioned by them. 'Hell Yeah NPSL Pro' is a shibboleth in social media for supporters of these clubs, and by people who generally support a more open system than the closed one MLS, Soccer United Marketing (SUM) and USSF partisans have created.
WHAT happened at the end of 2017, and why did the Cosmos not play in 2018?
Put simply, the Cosmos as a club were doing well. Management was relatively happy with the results of 2017. A home was being carved out at MCU Park. The organization had attracted new sponsors and fans who enjoyed the Coney Island scene and stadium vibe. Club leadership only expected more of the same in 2018, and NASL did not expect any serious issues when filing for league sanctioning the next year. There had been some setbacks in terms of league members, but fully vetted clubs were already lined up to replace them. Additional clubs were also interested and whose applications were in flight - enough to expand past the number in NASL in 2017.
Unfortunately, the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) made the decision to not renew NASL's league sanction, citing its failure to meet all Professional League Standard requirements for a D2 league. This was interpreted as hypocritical and unexpected, as USSF not only gave USL, another D2 league, extra time to file, and ultimately went on to renew its sanction. This occurred despite USL's incomplete adherence to requirements. NASL, Rocco and other club owners proceeded to file suit against USSF and MLS for adverse market manipulation and conflicted oversight. This very expensive endeavor continues to this day.
All leagues have historically operated with waivers to one or more PSL requirements for long periods of time. Major League Soccer (MLS) continues to be sanctioned despite its team-specific waivers, to this day. To all appearances, NASL was singled out. USSF's actions snuffed out thousands of jobs, suppressed player wages and shielded their preferred leagues from competition. The Cosmos organization spent millions of dollars on marketing, making a new home for itself at MCU and forging relationships with the Coney Island community and its local businesses. Chuck Schumer doesn't just find the time to petition the USSF president on behalf of everybody who asks.
As the months and lawsuit tidbits trickled out, 2018 in many ways became a forgotten season. With no league to play in, the first team as a squad spent the year in hiatus. Our beloved Gio Savarese moved on to become coach for the Portland Timbers. Erik Stover joined Fox Soccer Academy and opened a large facility in Warwick, NY. The organization largely became a caretaker, as resources were poured into the lawsuit.
Some first-team players who remained were merged onto the Cosmos B squad. (Cosmos B has since 2015 played in the NPSL and its shorter summer season.) A dispassionate eye might have judged the 2018 Cosmos B squad as low-D2/high D3 in quality. They did right by the Cosmos legacy, as Cosmos B went on to have a perfect 10-0-0 season last year. They often won by as many as five goals, and usually with a clean sheet. Cosmos B finally lost a match on a rainy day in the Northeast regional final, losing (just barely!) 2-3 against Motown FC at Rocco Commisso Stadium in Manhattan, when a 'Mos goal attempt at the death missed by literal inches.
WHAT is up with the blue kit? What happened to #forevergreen?
Yeah..not sure what to say. Green is ALWAYS on the badge, so there's that. Fan feedback had a role in the blue being the away jersey, so at least we're in the white at home. It has not been without precedent. There have been blue away jerseys before - from 1979 through to 1985 - and again in 2015.
If you haven't seen it yet, the white (home) jersey is en fuego ( on fire).
It's been strongly rumored that a green jersey reveal will happen before the Founders Cup tournament. Here's to keeping fingers crossed, and once more relegating the blue to third.
WHERE do we go from here?
2019 is the beginning of a new era. No one claims that Mitchel Field is optimal, but it was the best remaining option so late in pre-season after a much more interesting venue fell through while in contract. I for one am really looking forward to seeing what our reinforced squad can do this year. The organization belatedly realized they were losing value on their roster investments by completely starving the rest of the organization. Season tickets are once again available. The club is doing a better job with maintaining a social presence. There is active collaboration again between the organization and the Five Points supporter group collective. We might even see some new faces. All clubs are committed to providing streaming for all Founders Cup matches. The Cosmos are likely to offer streaming for regular NPSL season home matches, but subject to best-effort, well, efforts. Some will depend on the outcome of the legal action, expected to wrap up by the end of this year. We all, the organization included, want to see us return to MCU Park until a permanent home can be created. (It's been remarked by more than one supporter that Industry City would make a great location for a permanent home...)
What we can do for now as fans is,quite simply, show up. We are about to kick off a roller coaster ride that will take us through the regular NPSL season, the US Open Cup matches, an international friendly or two - all to culminate in the Founders Cup tournament. It's everyone's hope that the Founders Cup will herald us onto a path, both resistant to USSF obstructionism and supportive of a sporting merit culture that connects us to the global game.
The Cosmos are more than just an ambitious club. They are part of an idea. We are part of that idea. It's an idea of independent, quality soccer in the United States, where any club can dream and realize their ambition. Where everyone is welcome. Where kids don't have to have well-off parents to participate in the game, improve, and be noticed. Where the regulator isn't picking winners and losers depending on how much it presents risk to a league owned by its board members and created to comply with a World Cup contractual obligation. If you support any of that, you're already a bit of a Cosmos supporter.
Hope to see you out there on Saturday! And don't forget - an historic international friendly is coming to our shores as the Cosmos host legendary FC Saint Pauli on May 23rd at Rocco Commisso Stadium in Manhattan. #forevergreen
As always, let's go New York Cosmos!