The new New York Cosmos were founded in 2010 with ambitions of playing in Major League Soccer. Eventually, the club settled on the North American Soccer League, one level below MLS, and MLS announced that it had reached a deal with Manchester City and the New York Yankees to place an expansion team in New York City. The region already had the New York Red Bulls playing in the suburb of Harrison, New Jersey, and to many fans, two teams seemed like it may be too many.
Apparently, MLS Commissioner Don Garber feels that perhaps the Red Bulls and New York City FC are not enough, as Cosmos Chairman Seamus O’Brien claims to be in constant dialogue with Garber and believes that the New York market could support three MLS teams.
Even in the most optimistic outlook, this seems unlikely. New York does a fine job of supporting two teams in baseball, basketball, and football, but three seems to be quite the stretch. The National Hockey League, for example, is still significantly more popular than Major League Soccer is, and has three teams in the New York market: the New York Rangers, an Original Six team that plays in the Manhattan borough, the New York Islanders that play in Uniondale, New York but are moving to the Brooklyn borough, and the New Jersey Devils in Newark. In the 2012-13 NHL season, the Rangers sold out at a 100% capacity throughout the season, but ranked just 19th in attendance due to the size of Madison Square Garden, and the Devils ranked twentieth while selling out at a 97.1% rate. The Islanders finished dead last in attendance at 13,306, though perhaps fans felt alienated by the team’s impending move into the city. Of the three, only the Rangers sold out every game in a shortened season in which only twenty-four home games were played as opposed to forty-one. In 2011-12, the last full-length season, the Rangers averaged about 1,000 more fans per game, nearly selling out with the seating capacity then 18,200 instead of 17,200. The Devils averaged just 87.4% capacity and the Islanders finished second to last in attendance at a lower mark of 13,191.
It is a stretch by any means to assume it would work out, and history can only get the Cosmos so far, but based upon the rising popularity of soccer and ability to offer cheaper ticket prices, there is a chance it could still work out in the long run should the teams be spread out far enough. The Red Bulls are already located in New Jersey, and could begin to market more towards fans from Newark as well as their current audience, while City is placed in the Bronx or Queens and the Cosmos find a niche of their own to fill.
With the Red Bulls being owned by their namesake, and City by two of the richest sports clubs in the world, both have deep pockets while the Cosmos ownership is more questionable, but if they can find the financial backing and make a commitment to the community, they may have a chance to survive without killing off another one of their neighbors.
The Cosmos would bring history, if nothing else, to Major League Soccer, but would be located in a market that is already rather saturated. The league would be wise to wait on this issue for the time being and until other cities end up with teams and existing teams like D.C. United, New England, and Chivas USA get their stadium situations figured out.
The timeframe for this potential expansion would have to be 2017 at the absolute earliest, based on timeframe of other expansion scheduled and those that have been rumored.
- New York City FC – 2015
- Miami and Orlando rumored in 2016
Meanwhile, Atlanta and Minnesota are both expected to have acceptable stadiums built with strong NFL ownership groups in place and should be at the top of the list for further expansion.