Cosmos Set Exhibitions in Canada and Saudi Arabia

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

By JAKE NUTTING

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The New York Cosmos are trying their best to live up their reputation around the globe as the most recognizable soccer brand in United States soccer Hours after announcing a July 22 exhibition against La Liga’s Valencia in Canada, the defending champions of the North American Soccer League sandwiched in a match on May 20 against Al-Hilal of Saudi Arabia, in the middle of their Spring Season schedule..

The match is scheduled to be played at Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium.

“We are honored to accept this gracious invitation and delighted to play in this match against Al-Hilal sponsored by the general entertainment authority of Saudi Arabia,” Rocco B. Commisso, the team’s owner, said in a statement. “By participating in this momentous event, we continue our club’s tradition of traveling across the globe to promote soccer, unity and friendship. This is more than simply a game. It’s a significant opportunity for the New York Cosmos to once again make history.”

President Donald Trump will be in Saudi Arabia at the same time as the Cosmos, making the first stop in his first trip abroad since taking office.

The modern Cosmos have made a habit of playing international exhibitions, both in the preseason and during the season. They’ve traveled to play in South America, the Caribbean, China and England if you include the testimonial match for Manchester United’s Paul Scholes they participated in two years before they joined the NASL, in 2013. The original Cosmos often traveled the world, and played two matches in Egypt in 1980.

“Our club has had the good fortune to represent the United States during many memorable international matches,” Coach Giovanni Savarese said. “It is our hope that this historic visit to Saudi Arabia will unite people through the beautiful game of soccer.”

Al-Hilal recently wrapped up its season in the Saudi Professional League, clinching its 15th league title.

To fit the trip to the Middle East into their busy Spring Season schedule, the Cosmos have shuffled a few dates. The May 21 home match against Edmonton has been moved to June 7 at 7:30 p.m., while the June 9 matchup against visiting North Carolina has been moved to the the next day at 4 p.m. The Cosmos still have their opening-round match in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup scheduled for May 17, a few days before their date with Al-Hilal.

In July, the Cosmos will travel to Canada for a match at Mosaic Stadium. It opened in the fall of last year and is the home of the Canadian Football League’s Saskatchewan Roughriders. July’s exhibition between the Cosmos and Valencia will be the first soccer match played there. The match will likely be used to gauge the viability of Regina as a market for the recently sanctioned Canadian Premier League. So far, only Hamilton, Ontario, and Winnipeg, Manitoba, have been confirmed for the upstart league.

“It’s a great privilege to play in the first soccer match in beautiful new Mosaic Stadium,” Erik Stover, the Cosmos chief operating officer, said. “It’s a world-class venue and we’re looking forward to the challenge of playing a world-class club like Valencia CF.”

While the match is a first for Mosaic and the region, it won’t be a new experience for the Cosmos, who have a history of facing Spanish teams in exhibitions. This will be the third time the modern-era Cosmos have traveled to play Spanish competition. In 2013, they played a tuneup against Marcos Senna’s Villarreal and last year against Eibar in Las Vegas during the Spring Season. Valencia is in 13th place in La Liga’s standings with two matches remaining in its season.

After their summer exhibition in Canada, the Cosmos will return to Brooklyn the next weekend to kick of the NASL Fall Season against Miami FC at MCU Park.