The Cosmos will join the professional ranks in the Fall of 2020 by participating in the National Independent Soccer Association. Since the official announcement there has been complete radio silence from the club. It has been a jarring and frustrating time for loyal fans looking to see the club capitalize on opportunities for momentum, only to see weeks go by without a single word. It's enough to make one question what's exactly happened that got fans optimistic again in the first place.
To remind readers, the club's last announcement was that the New York Cosmos had submitted an application to NISA's board for entry and a Fall 2020 season start. Following this, there was need to get confirmation on two immediate questions:
- Did NISA accept the Cosmos application? Readers may recall some concerns from certain NISA clubs, ranging from ambivalence to actively worried that onboarding the Cosmos would risk the league's provisional sanctioning.
- USSF vets applications to validate whether PLS requirements specific to the league's assigned division are met. Did this process complete for the Cosmos, and were they approved? Or has the federation decide to manufacture some rationale to deny Cosmos entry into NISA?
It is the consensus of legal subject matter experts publicly opining on the matter that it would be very unlikely that an organization as potentially well financed as the Cosmos would fail to meet requirements. Likewise, it would also be unwise for the federation to prejudice their case in the antitrust lawsuit actively underway against them for unfairly picking winners and losers in American soccer.
What we last heard before the Christmas and New Years holiday season was that NISA's board had in fact accepted the Cosmos' application, contingent on USSF validation. The US soccer federation met in December, 2019, but failed to review the Cosmos application. The next opportunity to do so is in mid-February, at the 2020 Annual General Meeting (AGM).
On a practical level, this is probably the largest factor in the club's radio silence. Plans can and should be made, but nothing can be planned in earnest until their application completes USSF vetting. While the outcome is likely to be a positive one, it is by no means a mortal lock. And so, we're left with the unsatisfying reassurance of 'They also serve who only stand and wait'.
This week however, through the dismal purgatory, First Team Podcast can report that club management reached out to make it known that active planning sessions are underway with the working assumption that Cosmos will be playing in NISA in the fall. Management acknowledged the long silence and confirmed that they will be raising the club's communication profile in the weeks ahead. Information will be shared as details coalesce from their planning sessions.
According to a source close to the situation, one of the early decisions will be to anchor a roster with a small number of player signings this winter, with the possibility they will be loaned out to interested clubs until the summer. Filling out the rest of the roster, it was indicated, will be left to sit until the late spring through early summer. The exact number of players to be signed this winter was not confirmed at the time of reporting.
A second source said last week that the club would initiate meetings with candidates “soon” but there have been no updates since then.
We can confirm, thanks to our sources, and corroborated with reporting by Michael Lewis of FrontRowSoccer.com, that New York Cosmos formal pre-season period will kickoff in June.
It seems that Cosmos management are slowly beginning the work of breathing life into the 'Mos as a member of the National Independent Soccer Association (NISA). Fans, players and supporters all would like to see more urgency and visibility from the organization. Captain Danny Szetela, Emmanuele Sembroni, and Bledi Bardic are among players from the 2019 season who have expressed their strong interest in returning for 2020. Some players have even turned down offers to give the club more time to get their act together. That kind of loyalty and commitment from players goes above and beyond, given the need to provide for families in the NYC market. It is exactly the kind of energy that we want on the field, and to reward. Likewise, any further delay will likely reduce the number of players who can return. Already, we've lost talent like Junior Burgos and local hero David Diosa to organizations who were ready to sign in December and January.
Questions fans will have is what the technical staff will look like for 2020. Carlos Mendes will always be a beloved Cosmos legend, but will he return now that the club is fielding a side in a professional league once again?
The question not even worth repeating any more except to acknowledge it is the vital one of where will we be calling home. Mitchel is easiest, but problematic, Its challenges will only seem larger in the face of professionalization. Icahn Stadium? Commisso Stadium? Each has their pros and cons. A lot of fans, distinguished from supporters in The Five Points, have commented on FTP their desire to see NYC-owned, Mets-operated MCU Park once again as home pitch. Especially intriguing is that naming rights to the Coney Island venue are becoming available. Will Rocco Commisso see this as an opportunity to stakehold for the future, until a permanent home can be built? The Nexxfield has gone west, in the way of Horatio Alger and Davy Crockett, to reside in Oakland. Will we perhaps see the next generation of Nexxfield?
One of the consequences of the vacuum that's existed these past two years is that devoted supporters, both in and out of The Five Points, have stepped up to fill it. With a professional front office staff mandated for being part of a D3 league, what will happen now for those who traveled thousands of miles to cheer in the rain against thousands and coordinated engagement efforts with the admired but admittedly skeleton FO crew this past season. Will supporters be leveraged to participate in the organization's decision-making and execution processes? Time, as it always does, will tell.
For now, we can take comfort from the club reaching out to reporters and supporter media once again, breaking their silence. It's a welcome sign, and a promise of more things to come.
Keep it locked here. We will have more to report on soon; and let's go New York Cosmos!
James Izurieta contributed to the writing and reporting of this article.