From Cuba to Hong Kong, Cosmos’ ‘Global Strategy’ comes to life

IMAGE, DAVE MARTINEZ FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

EDITORIAL: The New York Cosmos’ confounding “global” strategy is beginning to make some sense.

Club COO Erik Stover and Chairman Seamus O’Brien have spoken highly about their ubiquitous idea of exploiting the Cosmos’ international reputation to markup gains on the domestic front.

What does that even mean?  How does that even happen?

Well, this offseason has served as an educational exercise on the topic.

Recently, the team made major worldwide headlines with reports citing the Cosmos as the first club in 19 years to play an exhibition match in the formerly-embargoed Cuba. The history making encounter serves as the crowning example of the club’s heavy international investment; the pinnacle of their offseason build.

Where did it begin?  The global approach starts with one man: Raul.  The Spanish international lends his reputation, pedigree and fame to the club. In doing so, he has helped elevate the Cosmos’ already lofty brand by association.  On a small scale, his signing nurtures the Cosmos’ big-name past, lifting the former Real Madrid striker amongst the vanguard of team greats like Pele and Giorgio Chinaglia. On a larger scale, he has rekindled the romance and interest of the club name across the world, creating some striking “division one” opportunities for this lower league side.

Take the Lunar New Year Cup for instance.  By all measures, the Cosmos’ Hong Kong friendly was a rousing success.  On the field, the New York Cosmos beat South China Football Team in penalty kicks in front of nearly 20,000 fans — most of whom made the match to see former Raul in action. Off-field, they enjoyed the luxuries of a big name club, participating in local media events and receiving the kind of treatment usually reserved for Premiership sides.

And then there is the matter of money.  The Cosmos’ fully furnished trip to the Far East was sweetened by a $200,000 prize pot; their reward for making the trip and winning it all.  To put that dollar amount into context, MLS Cup winners receive a cash prize of $180k total for winning arguably the most prestigious prize in American soccer — and that doesn’t include the paid-for travel and accommodations the Cosmos have — and will — receive to take part in every preseason exhibition they’ve taken part in.

By all measures, that is quite the achievement for any American club.

It is also the second significant purse connected to the Cosmos this offseason. As reported late last year, a Brazilian promoter tried to lure the Cosmos to the Amazon for a one-off match against Santos. New York backed out of the deal — leaving some $150k on the table to pursue other options.

Of course, money is only part of the global equation. Recognition, reach and goodwill are all important pieces to the Cosmos’ global plans as well.

To that end, matches like this weekend’s FAS encounter serve to ingratiate potential regional partners while establishing good will with foreign sides.  A large portion of Saturday’s gate will be reserved for the FESA association which serves El Salvador’s underprivileged children through the sport of soccer.  Raul and El Salvador captain Andres Flores have served as the club’s ambassadors for this trip, featuring on television and commercial ads promoting the event — and the cause.  In doing so, the Cosmos have established the foundation for a long, potentially fruitful relationship with a potent club side — and a country as a whole.

Speaking of being ambassadors, the Cosmos did just that for the North American Soccer League with their recent jaunt through the West Coast.  The NASL continues to look for a California footprint.  While on the West Coast, the Cosmos did a strong job of representing their club and promoting both brands.

Ventura County would seem a more apropos setting for any preseason training, but the Cosmos made more of the occasion.  Fusion matches, on average, draw 1-1,300 fans a match.  Fueled by the presence of Raul, the Cosmos helped double those attendance numbers, emerging out of their second preseason match with a second preseason trophy.

Sacramento is another success story. Granted, the Republic are no strangers to sellouts, nor do they necessarily need the Cosmos to sell seats.  Bonney Field, and Hughes Stadium before it, have been hot tickets since the Republic’s inaugural season.

However, it would be short sighted to think the Cosmos did not have a hand in this latest turnout. In fact, impressive attendance numbers have followed New York through their three preseason exhibition matches this offseason, and that trend will continue in El Salvador.

Finally, there is Cuba.  In one fell swoop, the Cosmos made history and international headlines as the first professional club in just under two decades to feature on the tiny island nation.  That is advertising money simply cannot buy.  It is also smart business, building upon their recognition and presentation as a top-flight club — despite their place in the U.S. Soccer pyramid.

What will this mean for the club’s NASL prospects?  That remains to be seen.  While consistent travel and success has buoyed the club’s image, confidence, and coffers, it still remains to be seen just how the players will react to the constant globe trotting.

Come the final weeks of March, however, Giovanni Savarese is lining up a more conventional preseason arrangement which will feature training and matches at the Bradenton facility in Florida.   This, of course, will serve to give the players a bit of normalcy before heading into their season opener against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers.

With April right around the corner, the Cosmos’ focus will return to wins and losses.  But come June, the global approach will carry on to a very important ‘phase II,’ where Cuba await.


Acting a big club is one thing; being a big club is something else entirely.

The Cosmos have certainly dressed the part of a big club this offseason.  Big money, big venues and big ambitions have shrouded the club’s every move.

In the end, however, the Cosmos’ global approach will be judged in one vital place: the gate.  That is the half of the equation many seem to overlook.  Yes, the Cosmos are taking the world by storm — and surprising several on the domestic level in doing so — but will they draw at Hofstra?  The only folks that need be impressed are those plunking down their hard earned cash to support the team.  If they don’t buy in, who cares what the world thinks — no matter how lucrative these global jaunts can be?

Global Aspirations. Domestic Growth.

One half of that equation has been fulfilled — but the other half will define the team’s success.

  • Ambulance Chaser

    Have to draw at home this year. It’s a must.

  • Nice article Dave.

  • Kevin

    Excellent article. I agree they must draw at home
    , even as brutal as Hofstra is.

  • El Paso tx Cosmo

    Actually cosmos need to get out of Hofstra and find a better location and stadium with grass if possible.
    You can not forget all the cosmos haters or MLS fans will never stop talking bad of cosmos until they are in MLS.
    That’s why cosmos should START by getting out of Hofstra and keep making positive moves in and out of the pitch.
    If cosmos were to join MLS, they would probably help MLS image and gain global attention.
    By the way, we all know garber invented nycfc to make nycfc the cosmos of MLS.
    The only big dogs of MLS are Toronto, Seattle, galaxy and nycfc.

    • Tony

      There’s no other option in all the city, especially with grass, that has more than 5K seats

      • Sasha

        I believe the Cosmos will buy out the Red Bulls or there properties. Think about it for a second… The Red Bulls are basically in showcase mood! What I mean from this is that they are building up there facilities to be world class, however the team is a MLS 1.0 type. No superstars to speak of similar to the other MLS 3.0 teams. MLS headquarters are in it as well. They of course helped assemble this team only to get some quality games (i.e. practice) for these players so that when the next expansion teams come in, they will be dispersed out like Chivas USA. This is where the Cosmos come in and buy up the “TURN KEY” operations. WHAM… there is your new stadium and new training facility that they have been looking for. The proposal for them to build out in Elmont will be shot down. I honestly dont see them staying in L.I for the forseeable future. This is Garbers other Wild Card play. MLS CANT IGNORE them anymore. The Cosmos are making big time strides. As for NYCFC, Yonkers raceway baby!!!

        • slowleftarm

          Wow, a study in denial. Impressive. In reality, Hempstead Cosmos and their 4,000 fanboys who show up at each game aren’t making big strides. Excepting when it comes to providing laughs to fans of big boy clubs competing in MLS.

  • Ulrich

    Playing 1-off global friendlies does not make a club “big” or necessarily even relevant. The Harlem Globetrotters are a prime example of an enterprise largely based on making money from exhibition matches. The Cosmos could continue this route of activity, and probably do quite well marketing their brand, but unless they considerably improve their domestic gate haul while also winning their league year-in and year-out against competition not graced with the same monetary backing, then they will never rise above the status of a novelty item/team. It would be good for NYC if they could.

  • Viva Cosmos

    To Sasha,
    I don’t see red bull giving up that easy and garber is afraid of kicking out red bul.
    Red bull would ask for $500 million easily and red bull won’t go down after the first punch.
    Don’t forget garber won’t swallow his pride and mistake he did of not buying cosmos back then and if does now, cosmos wouldn’t accept the MLS offer.
    Cosmos need to start doing moves and reserve psychology with garber using social media but like I said before, red bull won’t go down that easy and cosmos need to accept MLS offer.
    Another important question, will cosmos ownership be committed to MLS and would garber be interested in another ownership to buy red bull.

  • IDon’tLikeRexRyan

    I wish them all the best, but I don’t think operating like an old school prizefighter – traveling around playing friendlies and picking up really nice checks – can sustain them without some solid fundamentals

    1.) People in the stands – wherever those stands end up
    2.) People watching some form of broadcast
    3.) The health of the NASL itself

  • Chepe pedos

    I just witnessed the game in El Salvador, and must say, that there was probably ,almost 30,000 people there. No MLS team has ever done that . Not the dynamo, dallas, galaxy .. It’s the cosmos, a famous legendary team. What matters is what is on the field, I could care less if they play in so call division 2 , or mls. Mls can be popular , but if they continue to play that way on the field, I’m out as a fan . I just wanna see good soccer, and the cosmos have that

  • Will

    Well said chepe pedos. Well said my man

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