New York Cosmos Strategy: Think globally to grow domestically


Empire of Soccer had a chance to speak with Cosmos Chief Operating Officer, Erik Stover. In this third part of our discussion, Stover delves into the Cosmos’ “global aspirations,” putting meaning behind the ambiguous statement.

The New York Cosmos have repeated two catchphrases since their return from dormancy last season — and both have been as confounding as they are profound.

The first is a favorite of both Chairman Seamus O’Brien and Cosmos COO Erik Stover; the organization’s goal to reach “the highest level” of domestic soccer. How is anyone’s guess. With relationships frayed on the MLS level, one would assume their aim parallels that of the NASL; seeking the freedom to perform independently and without limit at the second division while challenging MLS for superiority at the top.  That, of course, is just conjecture, and perhaps the best answer to their aspirations.

Then there is a new refrain that has caught on within New York’s brain trust; the Cosmos wish to compete “on the global market.”

That phrase was repeated by O’Brien at their recent Raul press conference.

“If you don’t compete globally, you are nothing,” O’Brien tells EOS. “A car company in Detroit invests $500 million on a team in Manchester, England to sell cars in Shanghai, China. That is the global economy of this sport.”

Bridging the gap between the automotive world and the world’s game may be a difficult ask, but the concept is there.  Business has become a global sport itself, presenting opportunities organizations could only dream of just ten short years ago.

Putting such grandiose philosophy behind the Cosmos strategy may be a difficult concept to embrace, particularly when you take the team’s current environment into consideration.  For better or for worse, they are a designated division two side. Their 2013 buzz led way to a rather flat 2014 both on and off the field. Attendance took a nosedive and the franchise suffered a mediocre run through the Fall Championship season.

O’Brien is quick to point out that short term losses are not a concern just 16 months into the team’s ten year plans. They are happy with the development of their core fans, delighted with their 2013 returns and hopeful in their continued push to become an omnipresent player throughout the five boroughs and in the local Long Island community.

But where does heightened global concentration fit into domestic growth?

Stover attempts to bridge that gap.

“We talk about this a lot. It’s hard for everybody to understand it,” Stover tells EoS. “Soccer is a global sport. Player transfers, tournaments — everything is done on a global scale and that is unique to the United States. You may be taking players from around the world into your league, but it really isn’t a global economy. Major League Baseball, the NBA — they are the economy. They are running the show.

“If we are ultimately going to be successful like the Cosmos were in the seventies, you have to be relevant internationally. A lot of that in this sport will then drive the economy back here in the United States.”

Global success and domestic returns seems like a backwards way of looking at a club’s business strategy. Stover, however, uses much of the domestic soccer culture to strengthen his point.

“If you go to a park or a school playground, you will see loads of soccer shirts, but not too many of them are U.S. clubs,” he explains. “That for us is a big challenge. It’s a sign that while soccer is popular in this country, the club portion of the business is very small and we have to get past that. We would love New Yorkers to be wearing Cosmos shirts – not Bayern Munich, Real Madrid or Barcelona. Being a player on a global scale ultimately will effect that.

“We have to be relevant here in New York which is very difficult. As we all know, selling soccer in New York City is not easy, but having a strong footprint around the world certainly helps. It comes back — it goes out and comes back.”

The Cosmos, Stover says, are already seeing a return on that philosophy. “If you polled football followers in Spain, the most recognizable soccer name in the United States would be the Cosmos, not only for our history, but for Marcos Senna and Raul.

“There are opportunities that come from that for us. The [Marcos Senna tribute] at Villarreal and the two week training camp at the end of the season last year is one example, and certainly there will be more in the future.  We have seen that opportunities coming in for the spring next year, preseason, tells us people are aware of who we are and what we are doing and it’s a good place for us to go.”

With global opportunities come a steep test for the Cosmos infrastructure as well. The NASL standouts struggle to find domestic markets that will carry their gear locally, let alone on the global scale. Further, the NASL has failed to create a national television presence in their four years of operations, struggling to even put out a consistent streaming option.

Overall, however, the global concept does fall in line with the Cosmos’ once mighty lineage.  World stars like Pele, Franz Beckenbauer, Carlos Alberto and Giorgio Chinaglia served as a beacon for uninitiated soccer fans in a once-barren American soccer landscape to gather and enjoy the world’s finest athletes.  Even at 37-years-old, Raul carries with him name recognition and appeal that few others within the U.S. can compare.  His partner, Marcos Senna, is as celebrated and accomplished a veteran athlete as there can be.  Both will be vital components in the Cosmos Academy program, giving New York a pair of world renown athletes to associate with the club long term — just as they have done with Pele.

Whether they can reach the heights of their predecessors remains to be seen, though Stover seems confident of the club’s approach.

“The opportunity is there,” he says.

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  • Dave from Dix Hills

    Inspirational yes but practical? No way.

  • drm21892

    I still think that getting into the Concacaf Champions League is vital for the Cosmos to gain any sort of traction.

    • Anthony M.

      Considering how little exposure the NASL gets through mainstream television, CONCACAF Champions League stands as the only way they can gain ground in the international market. That’s why the loss to Philadelphia was seen as a really big hit for the team.

  • Tiago Patrício

    They will reach Concacaf this year with the trio Raul, Ayoze and Marcos Senna!!

    Like we Europeans use to say, it will be These Three more Eight!!

  • NYsoccerfan

    Nice idea but this strategy will fall totally flat. No one other than a handful of NASL fanboys care about the Cosmos or the 2nd division of US soccer right now.

    There only hope is for Qatar to invest and even then it will be difficult.

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