On Thursday, July 12, the New York Cosmos and NASL commissioner David Downs announced that the club would begin play in the second division league next season. This news comes after former owner Paul Kelmsley nearly squandered the team's chances of ever playing in the North American soccer system again.
I've been following the campaign to bring back the Cosmos for over a decade. Upon learning about the club's history, I became an advocate for its return to competitive soccer and have been ever since. When Kelmsley took over the team and started the drive to get the club into MLS, I thought he was the person to make it happen. However, his poor management of the Cosmos put the club's future in jeopardy and led to the team's sale to Sela Sport and current chairman Seamus O'Brien in 2011.
Now the Cosmos have a future and a possible path into Major League Soccer. It's going to take some time to build up the club's brand in New York City after the Kelmsley disaster, but the Cosmos have a great chance of becoming MLS's 20th franchise. Multiple teams have worked their way to MLS through the NASL, including the Montreal Impact and the Seattle Sounders. There's little doubt that the Cosmos, with their proud history and solid marketing power, could become a successful expansion candidate.
However, the Cosmos have some obstacles to face before reaching MLS. They likely aren't the only club from New York that will be seeking entry into North America's first division. Apparently, MLS plans on building a stadium in New York City first and then holding an auction between ownership groups for the rights to the expansion franchise. As MLS commissioner Don Garber noted last year, the league hopes to earn an expansion fee of $100 million.
If the Cosmos are serious about joining MLS, O'Brien and Sela Sport will need to come up with that money. They will also need to prove they can put a good product on the field. Kelmsley's failure proved that marketing alone won't get it done. O'Brien and his staff will need to put together a stable and successful academy system while building a roster that will immediately compete for championships in the NASL.
I've waited for the Cosmos to return for years, and now it's finally happening. Hopefully, O'Brien is able to rebuild the club that once captured the hearts of soccer fans across the United States.
Derek Ciapala has been a fan of international soccer since the United States hosted the World Cup in 1994. His favorite moment in international football is Landon Donovan's last minute goal against Algeria in the 2010 World Cup. You can follow him on Twitter @dciapala or Facebook.