Giovanni Savarese’s New York Cosmos won the 2016 NASL Championship with a 4-2 penalty shootout win over Tim Hankinson’s Indy Eleven following a scoreless draw through 120 minutes. However, it seems to be a pyrrhic victory, with uncertainty surrounding the North American Soccer League’s future. Five teams are either on the way out or could be on the way out.
As per Dirty South Soccer, The Tampa Bay Rowdies and Ottawa Fury have decided to join the United Soccer League, or USL. Minnesota United is entering Major League Soccer next season. And both Rayo OKC and Fort Lauderdale have financial problems all year and may not be back in 2017.
Had very productive meetings in last 24 hours with NASL and USL leadership re: future of the professional game in the United States. pic.twitter.com/pWwbeGGWq8
— Sunil Gulati (@sunilgulati) November 3, 2016
So where does this leave the Cosmos? It can go one of two ways: tough it out and hope for the NASL season to continue, or, if the league may not get next season off, jump ship to USL. There are a number of reasons why it needs to get out of the NASL and enter the USL and continue existing as a USL team.
First off, it ensures that the Cosmos, a financially sound team in terms of legacy, name recognition and talent, plays in a stable competition as USL, who are currently at 31 teams. Secondly, it ensures that defending league champions New York Red Bulls, through their second team, have a local rival to have derby matches against. With this, the Red Bulls have rivals at MLS (New York City FC) and USL (New York Cosmos) level.
Third, and this is from a personal standpoint, the possibility of a USL Cup Final featuring the LA Galaxy (through their second team, LA Galaxy II) and the Cosmos is possible. Imagine, if you will, a Showdown of the Heavens, a divine, interstellar battle between two brands on opposite coasts battling for a league championship: LA Galaxy (II) vs. New York Cosmos. There’s one for your television monitors.
Fourth, and finally and this is also from a personal standpoint, the NASL may not be able to get the 2017 season off. If the Cosmos want to get their new stadium built, they need to be in a stable league to convince the dealmakers at the Empire State Development Corporation that the Cosmos are here to stay, this time as a USL side. Even if the NASL folds, the Cosmos will be able to continue on, just under a newer and more demanding competition. This can only be a good thing. The best team in New York City then and now showed us it was a power in the NASL. Now it needs to take the next step forward.
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