What a long, strange trip it's been. It feels like we've taken the longest winding path we could find, and despite a stiff wind getting us lost a few times, we've ended up exactly at a place we were at two years ago.
A strong feeling of deja vu rolled over me as I confirmed that it was indeed The Miami FC the Cosmos would be facing this Saturday, August 3rd 7pm at Mitchel Athletic Complex.
Two years ago, I was on a plane taking off for San Francisco for a conference, and the 2017 NASL playoffs were about to reveal whether it would be the Cosmos or Miami FC joining me in San Francisco for the NASL Soccer Bowl. The USSF de-sanction hadn't happened yet, as ambitious plans to expand NASL into 11-12 teams rolled through the media, even as clubs like the San Francisco Deltas were just about set to disappear. Rumors swirled that something might yet be done for the Deltas, but it ultimately came to nothing.
By the time I landed and got back onto wifi, I was still able to catch this glorious moment.
A lot has happened since. A whole league's worth of staff and players were summarily kicked out of a job. The army of people suing the soccer federation grew when the entire Women National Team joined in on the fun. USL has algae-bloomed into as many soccer 'markets', as quickly as possible, to suck the oxygen out of all the rooms - with some notable exceptions. MLS tried to get away with moving a soccer team without creating a 'free' expansion slot, and yet still kept expanding.
We had the making of an independent league for 2020, free of USSF taint. Until we didn't, because of a seemingly mundane insurance issue that somehow does not afflict other tournaments and leagues that mix professional and amateur players. It has been suggested by sources within the Cosmos organization that the primary insurer of lower division soccer events like this were told by the US Soccer Federation not to offer insurance. Reasons cited for the unwillingness to extend a policy included the mix of athlete classes, and their lack of compliance with the infamous USSF Professional League Standards. Seemingly easily-surmountable concerns not encountered by other entities and event managers once again disproportionately impact the Cosmos.
The weirdness continues. Rocco Commisso bought a Serie A side, and suddenly Cosmos Country has amicable diplomatic ties with the Viola Nation. A Five Points delegation were invited to the ICC Fiorentina - Benfica match to support our new partners in crime and sit with Cosmos players. They took the opportunity in the House of Bull to send a message to the USSF.
One of the more surreal moments of a memorable evening was watching Rocco and Joe on RBNJ's jumbotron screen, talking to the crowd like they owned the place. Who knows what the future will bring? But at least the Temple of False Idols was left in better condition than it was found.
With the NASL lawsuit still in an extended discovery phase (now pushed out to end of November), and shrinking chances for a pre-trial settlement that will likely not see a resolution until spring of 2020, it's not hyperbole to say that our extended time in the proverbial wilderness has been a been strange journey.
All of this is to say that this 2019 NPSL National Final will probably one of the most normal things to happened to the club and its supporters in a long time. A familiar rival, coming hat in hand to our house, in an all or nothing match for the silver.
Miami, in some ways, are a mirror image of our club, only in less cool climes. Chaired by a billionaire looking to make change happen in the landscape of American soccer, they too have made efforts to make a place for themselves amongst sanctioned soccer. They have fielded an extraordinary squad of players relative to typical National Premiere Soccer League sides. The NPSL serves an outward developmental purpose for college-age players looking to stay engaged with their craft over the summer. They do this well. But it also serves as a sort of life raft for clubs who aspire for more.
The bifurcated and closed nature of the divisional structure in US soccer being what it is, leads to few options for capitalization that only becomes practical if you can afford the sanctioned legitimacy of preferred-league entry fees. The conflicted and seemingly corrupt nature of the relationships and people shared between MLS, the soccer federation and the MLS-owned management company that operates all National Team content and appearances, ensure that invitations to pay those fees only go to owners and teams that know their place and are willing to play their dirty ball. The NPSL is not free of problems but, sanctioned by a separate group the USASA - are a more flexible and certainly less expensive place to play higher in quality than others. Some call it 4th division but it's more accurate to question the relevance of 'division' at all without an open soccer pyramid.
The Miami FC, unable to match our undefeated record this season in the NPSL, will be hosted by the Cosmos at Mitchel Field this Saturday in the NPSL National Final. After a season of clean sheets and crazy goal margins, we finally face in NPSL one of the handful of squads that operates at our level. We might even lose. It will be a very 'normal' match for Cosmos Country, though given that we've typically come out ahead two out of three recent matches, we will all be rooting for an EXTREMELY 'normal' match experience. I for one am entirely grateful for this chance, even if just for a night.
Gates open at 5pm, and kickoff is at 7pm! Buy tickets online and use code: FINALS for a discount. The first thousand fans through the gate get a Finals t-shirt. All kids 14 and under are free. Cosmos fixture Peter Schwartz will perform PA announcer duties, and former Cosmos midfielder Jonathan Barrajo will be on hand to provide color commentary. A live stream will be available for the match.
The Five Points 6th anniversary Tailgate blowout starts at 3pm. Please make sure to come celebrate with those who've kept the faith - and the party going - in common fellowship for six straight years.
Bring something to share: some beverages, snacks, a few dollars or yourselves. A raffle will be held for some autographed swag, including a ball and pix.
WARNING: There will be face-painting.
Hope to see you out there this Saturday. Let's go New York Cosmos NPSL National Champions!