BY ANTHONY J. MERCED
Despite what a majority of fans may think, the New York Cosmos play in the NASL — US Soccer’s second division.
Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. The team’s ideology and history was something that they felt was better preserved in the NASL and, in all actuality, they are probably right. The Cosmos were known as big spenders with a flashy style and tons success under that umbrella. They already have the spending and championships locked down.
However, a large portion of the fanbase isn’t interested in dominating the NASL like the old days. Instead their sights are set on the US Open Cup and – potentially – the CONCACAF Champions League. Aside from the fact that team still needs to acquire a first-division level of depth to progress deep into the Open Cup, there is one point that fails to be considered:
What is the benefit of winning the Open Cup?
In all honesty there isn’t much. DC United, last year’s winner, received a sad $250,000 for their effort and a spot in the Champions League. The competition is not easily accessible to the average sports audiences, being available on GolTV only a year ago.
The Champions League itself isn’t exactly as prestigious as it may appear, either. The format is in constant flux, provides no real monetary advantage and most games end up on the secondary, subscription only, Fox Sports Channels. So really, the only thing the competition will do is pull focus away from the league fixtures that provide the most exposure. Even the lauded FIFA Club World Cup is seen as a secondary trophy that, for many teams, is a distraction more so than a true competition.
The obvious argument I hear in favor of such competitions is the success that it has in Europe. Unfortunately, this isn’t Europe and the game doesn’t have as rich of a professional history. Most teams in North America (outside of Liga MX and MLS) have limited fan bases and even more limiting ways to watch games. Measuring up to MLS? What does that gain?
Truthfully, the best way for the Cosmos to gain a firmer grasp on the American market is by doing what they did in the 70’s and elevate the league with their own success. Hopefully their influence can get One World Sports onto more cable providers or maybe SNY will cover more than just Cosmos home games.
Bottom line? No Cup is more important than league play. Ask Wigan, who won the FA Cup and find themselves floundering in the Championship mid-table, how important Cup wins are.
At the end of the day, the Cosmos are NASL Soccer Bowl Champions. That should be the main goal every year.