Updated: Oct 17, 2018
The current situation in U.S Soccer is affecting dozens of players throughout the pyramid. Some players have to ply their trade in a semi-pro league and hope to get a professional contract, such as Sidney Rivera who was playing for Atlantic City of the NPSL and he has recently signed for Reno 1868 FC of the United Soccer League.
Former New York Cosmos midfielder Danny Szetela is another victim of the NASL getting de-sanctioned and the reality that there are no other professional leagues that will not pay a veteran who has played in MLS, Italy's second division Serie B and for the historic New York Cosmos a living wage to support himself and his family.
Danny has recently signed for Cedar Stars FC of the Cosmopolitan Soccer League. The CSL is a regional soccer league consisting of clubs based in and around New York City. In any other country Danny Szetela would of been signed by a professional club, getting paid a living wage and playing a very important role for that club, but now Danny is in a crossroads, a victim of the current state of U.S Soccer but still wants to continue to play the beautiful game. Danny is not considering retirement nor should he.
When the Cosmos were playing in the NASL in the modern era, you can see Danny was an outspoken player on the field, if he was trying to stick up for his teammate against an opponent or yelling at the referee regarding a certain call that went against the boys in green. In my opinion Danny is a very important player in U.S Soccer. The well spoken player on the field, has continued his ways by answering my questions.
First Team Podcast: When the NASL got de-sanctioned by the United States Soccer Federation, did you have offers from other professional teams for the 2018 season?
Danny Szetela: There was some offers but they weren't great ones in the USL. My wife and I are expecting our first child so to move out of state for what was being offered was not ideal for me and my family. I could have been making more money at a fast food restaurant.
FTP: It was great to have the Cosmos, on the field in 2018 even if it was just considered the B team. How did it feel to captain the team in the National Premier Soccer League, with the club currently involved in lawsuits against the federation and so much more off of the field?
DS: The Cosmos being on the field was very important to me there the one club that will forever be in my heart. It was important to have them on the field also for the loyal fans that have been there from the beginning through the good times and bad to show to the fans that Rocco Commisso cares and wants the Cosmos to last forever. Being the captain was an honor I wear the cosmos crest with pride every time I put on the shirt, and taking the arm band from Carlos Mendes is not an easy task. Carlos was a great leader and role model for us all. I try not to think about all the unfortunate events thats going on with the lawsuits but hopefully in the future we can see everyone come together and help grow the beautiful sport of soccer in this country.
FTP: If the Cosmos return in 2019 in the new pro league, NPSL PRO. Can we see you back on the field, or would you have to consider other options? If you do not return to the Cosmos in 2019, what is next for Danny Szetela?
DS: If the Cosmos return in 2019 which I have faith they will yes i would love to be back on the field wearing the Cosmos crest. I'm not considering retirement and the one day that I do retire I would love for it to be with the Cosmos.
FTP: According to reports NPSL PRO will be sanctioned under the United States Adult Soccer Association instead of the United States Soccer Federation. I believe this country truly needs an independent league that will make their own decisions based off of what is right for the league and its members and not because they are trying to meet the Professional League Standards every single season. Danny you played abroad, how did it feel like knowing that the club you were playing for would play every single season, with no interference from the federation. Hopefully over time NPSL PRO, will grow and become a successful league, were players can strive and only worry about on the pitch rather than off the field.
DS: They made rules and they must be followed in accordance to US Soccer's standards do I agree with them no not at all. But that being said if leagues around the world had similiar rules than we wouldnt have cinderella storys in the sport of soccer. I think this year there are two teams in La Liga that came from 3rd or 4th divisions and have a stadium capacity of five thousand.That's the beauty of the sport. Everyone gets a fair chance to be playing in the top tier, thats why I support leagues going out of U.S Soccer and be sanctioned by the United States Adult Soccer Association.
FTP: What are your thoughts on the current state of professional soccer. There are two professional leagues sanctioned by USSF (MLS &USL). Both leagues are working together on and off the field. On the field, MLS field their reserve teams in USL. This is well known, that USL clubs are suppressing player wages. With the limited number of pro leagues that limits the opportunities for players. With the USL currently suppressing player wages, which will definitely have an effect on players. If players are not getting paid a living wage, they will play in the USL for a couple of years and if they don’t get a better deal, or move to a much better team they will most likely leave the sport of soccer and get an office job. What are your thoughts?
DS: I support PRO/REL in this country, its big enough. If a player playing in Major League Soccer is in last place after mid way through the season and has no shot in making the playoffs will every player on the team give the same effort as if they knew that if they were relegated your pay gets cut in half and now your not making the same money to support your family absolutely not. Than what are you playing for at the end of the season? I guess just personal bonuses. I heard somewhere that someone said USL considers themselves the best 2nd league in the world. Players in the USL get paid peanuts compared to what players make in other 2nd divisions in this world. Theres alot of players who played in the NASL that did not consider USL just because you can't support your family on those wages and some teams also don't give you health insurance so players have changed there careers.
FTP: With the United States Federation only enforcing the professional league standards, which are on and off the field standards for professional leagues and member clubs. The USSF doesn’t have a minimum player salary, or care for the well being of professional players. Do you think a group of like minded players should start a U.S Soccer Players Union for the entire pyramid, which will fight for better wages for players and much more?
DS: I think there should definitely be a U S Soccer Players Union. I also think there is a players council in U.S Soccer but I don't feel they look out for the best interests of all players that play in the U.S.
FTP: What do you want to be remembered for as a player of the New York Cosmos?
DS: I want to be remebered as a player that always left 100 percent out on the field for his teammates, his coach, for the fans, and most importantly for the club.
FTP: Throughout the modern era each season was a rollercoaster ride off of the pitch. Now we have a great owner in Rocco Commisso, as supporters we trust that he has the clubs best interests at heart and he will fight until the end. How does that feel when you play for a club that has an owner like Rocco?
DS: Playing for an owner like Rocco is great! He's a person that loves his club and always wants to do whats right for the players, fans, the front office, and for soccer in this country. We need more owners in this country like Rocco, I dont think I have played for a club were the owner would come to the locker room after games and congratulate every player win or lose.
FTP: .What do you think has to change in U.S Soccer to implement PRO/REL?
DS: I think what needs to change in U.S Soccer is to implement PRO/REL. A new president was voted in but from what I've seen and read so far the only concern right now is the World Cup. Yes, hosting the World Cup is important but if we dont help soccer grow in the country than we wont see our national team do well at the biggest stage. We need more competition within our leagues and that starts with promotion and relegation.
FTP: I would love to see PRO/REL be implemented in U.S Soccer in the near future but realistically each league is doing their own thing, and has their own plan for the future. Can you you actually see PRO/REL being implemented in U.S Soccer?
DS: I can see PRO/REL being implemented in the country but not with Major League Soccer. For MLS it just doesn't make sense for the owners if they have to pay almost 200 million dollars to join the league, but I do see that more and more fans and owners of clubs from other leagues want PRO/REL so I do see it happening.
FTP: What are your thoughts on former players such as Alexi Lalas, who are on TV or radio giving their opinions on the game in this country, but when they tweet, or talk it seems they don’t really care for the problems. Former players should understand the problems in the game and should work hard to try and change whatever is wrong. If thats through their work in the media, or just having a big following on social media.
DS: My thoughts on former players such as Alexi and others is they have a job to do and need to make there employers happy so they say what there employers want to hear and not what the real problem with soccer is in this country.
Thanks to former New York Cosmos Midfielder Danny Szetela for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions.
In the current state of U.S Soccer, the USL are suppressing player wages, and Danny did the honorable thing and rejected those offers, they weren't worth his time. For most players continuing playing professional soccer is a no-brainer but eventually in the current state of U.S Soccer players have to make a decision, do they continue playing professional soccer or go on a new career path. This is the sad reality of U.S Soccer. I hope players like Danny Szetela can stand and challenge the norm and advocate for better wages for all professional players in the U.S.