by JAKE NUTTING
Rocco B. Commisso was dubbed the “savior” of the New York Cosmos by returning Chief Operating Officer Erik Stover, but the storied club’s new majority owner believes his hard-line stipulations in the purchase also played a pivotal role in keeping the North American Soccer League alive.
“It wasn’t just the Cosmos who we weren’t sure were going to survive, it was the entire NASL. That’s gotta be said upfront,” Commisso stated in his first comments to the media on Tuesday.
Prospects looked bleak for both the league and the Cosmos until Commisso stepped in a few days before Christmas. The cable television mogul was immediately interested in investing in the team he claims he’s been a fan of since the days of Pele and Giorgio Chinaglia, however he would only do so on the condition that they remain in the NASL and the league maintain its second division status.
“One of the credits I take is my condition on the deal led at the end of the day to United Soccer Federation having to make a tough, tough decision,” he explained. “I wasn’t coming in if it wasn’t D2, and without me I don’t know it could have survived.”
Commisso also said other NASL owners were intent on keeping their club at the D2 level as well. Should the NASL have been dropped down to the third tier, there is a strong possibility those other owners could have jumped ship for the United Soccer League, which would have sealed the league’s fate.
With Commisso and other owners drawing a line in the sand for the USSF in their sanctioning decision, the Federation was put in the position of potentially playing the villain and also risk alienating NASL owners with deep pockets.
“The USSF had to make the decision whether they want to see the Cosmos and the other eight teams fail,” Commisso said. “Ruin the livelihoods of the players, the staff, the coaches, the executives and so on and so on — not to say anything of the fans that all like this game. So they had a tough decision.”
Ultimately the NASL and Commisso got the best case scenario out of the USSF — a 12 month reprieve to get their house in order and start work rebuilding their league with hopefully more prudent expansion. Commisso told the media the NASL’s ultimate future is still uncertain, but his expectation is to begin working with his fellow owners on expanding and laying the groundwork for sustainability as soon as possible.
“I held firm, frankly,” Commisso said. “My condition was unwaveable and they needed to weigh that. As a result USSF made the right decision in giving the D2 status and a chance to survive and excel over the next 12 months and hopefully go forward.”