Eric Adams, Chuck Schumer join fight to save Cosmos, NASL
America’s most storied soccer franchise is not going down without a fight.
The New York Cosmos’ existence is once again in jeopardy after the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) revoked the North American Soccer League’s (NASL) Division II status for the 2018 season in September.
There are several requirements for Division II status, including the number of teams in a league, the geographic distribution of clubs and stadium sizes, among other conditions.
The league must have at least 12 teams to be considered Division II. Last season, NASL operated with eight teams under a provisional Division II status.
USSF classifies professional soccer competitions into three divisions: Division I, Division II and Division III.
Division I consists of Major League Soccer (MLS), home to the New York Red Bulls who play in Harrison, N.J. and New York City FC, who play at Yankee Stadium.
Division II contained NASL and the United Soccer League (USL) for the 2017 season.
Although there are currently no sanctioned Division III leagues, the National Independent Soccer Association and USL Division III are expected to begin play in that tier in 2018 and 2019 respectively.
On Nov. 16, North Carolina FC announced it was leaving NASL to join USL, which brought NASL’s team total to seven.
“North Carolina FC’s departure from NASL represents the damage caused by the USSF’s decision to revoke NASL’s Division II sanctioning for the 2018 Season,” NASL said in a statement. “The NASL remains committed to pursuing its legal claims to ensure that the future of its players, fans, and clubs remains bright.”
Several teams in the past few years have departed NASL for MLS, including Minnesota United FC and Montreal Impact.
Two squads from the West Coast will join NASL in 2018 in San Diego and Orange County, California.
Two prominent Brooklyn politicians, however, have come out swinging for Pele’s former team: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.
Schumer and Adams are calling on USSF to reconsider its decision, arguing that soccer in America and Brooklyn’s economy will suffer by the Cosmos dropping to Division III.
“The New York Cosmos are a staple of American soccer and deserve to keep Division II status,” Schumer told the Brooklyn Eagle. “The iconic franchise that now calls Coney Island home is a local economic driver, creating jobs for players, coaches, front-office personnel and stadium workers to supporting local restaurants, bars and hotels.
“Division II status is a win-win-win for American soccer, the Cosmos and Brooklyn.”
A Division III status would hurt the Cosmos, as it would lead to a decline in sponsorships and television broadcast partners, loss of ceding position in the U.S. Open Cup and a more difficult time attracting quality players.
“[The Cosmos’] presence has created many jobs for the local area and brings thousands of revelers to Coney Island every season to enjoy the great attractions, bars, hotels and restaurants along the boardwalk and the adjacent neighborhood of Brighton Beach,” Adams said in a letter to USSF President Sunil Gulati last week.
“Removing the NASL from Division II level, and as a consequence the New York Cosmos, would make it unsustainable for them to continue to operate in Coney Island, thereby risking many jobs and creating a sporting vacuum in the process.”
Rocco Commisso, owner of the Cosmos, CEO of Mediacom and NASL league chairman, filed an antitrust lawsuit in Brooklyn federal court after the relegation, arguing that USSF acted unlawfully.
“I invested in the New York Cosmos eight months ago with the expectation that the USSF would allow us to play at the Division II level long enough for me to work with the NASL’s leadership to strengthen and grow our league,” Commisso said in September.
The attorney representing NASL is Jeffrey Kessler. He is the same lawyer who assisted Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott in his appeal of a six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.
Kessler also represented New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in Brady v. NFL.
On Nov. 4, Judge Margo Brodie of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York ruled that it was within USSF’s power to demote NASL. She, therefore, denied NASL’s request for an injunction.
NASL, however, is appealing Judge Brodie’s decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals.
USSF’s response to the appeal is due on Tuesday. The appeal will be heard in court on Dec. 15 at 10 a.m.
The Cosmos are no stranger to adversity. In January, the team’s existence was again at risk.
With no stadium to play in, no jersey sponsor and no tickets sold, the Cosmos looked destined for an early grave, but Commisso saved the struggling franchise.
The team, despite several obstacles, earned a playoff berth, defeated the number-one-seeded Miami FC and made it to the NASL Championship.
“The support the New York Cosmos have received from federal, state and local lawmakers has been tremendous,” Cosmos COO Erik Stover told the Eagle. “It is a testament to the important role that NASL clubs play in their communities.
“When USSF denied sanctioning to our league, I don’t think they took into the consideration the serious economic impact their decision would have on communities like Brooklyn’s Coney Island. We hope that this support is a wakeup call to the Federation and that they start focusing on helping our league instead of trying to put us out of business.”
USSF did not respond to a request for comment.
Follow reporter Scott Enman on Twitter.
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