July 06, 2006

Soccers makes it's way to the USA: A great story of the New York Cosmos international fame and popularity for a brief period of time. What happened afterward?

posted by sauceysays to soccer at 10:43 AM - 9 comments

Great story. I read this earlier today. On a side note, the front page shows a picture of Pele being carried off the field after the "Pele Game" at Giants Stadium on October 1, 1977. I was there, and I was 10 years old. We had season tickets to the Cosmos for a couple of season, and fell in love with the game watching the likes of Pele, Neeskens, Chinaglia and Beckenbauer play it. Probably had a bigger impact on me than seeing the Ramones play at my sister's college in 1981. As for why it didn't last, the author nails it:

And why couldn't cities like Houston, Memphis and Detroit replicate the Cosmos' success by splashing out millions for other famous soccer mercenaries? At least, that was the benighted thinking among the Lords of American Soccer, who misread the success of the Cosmos as an endorsement of the sport rather than what it was a feverish, ephemeral moment when the arrival of a global idol combusted with the birth of showbiz in American sports.

posted by psmealey at 12:18 PM on July 06, 2006

Basically, the (New York) Cosmos killed the North American Soccer League. By getting all the best players on the roster, they were in a class by themselves. I was a Cosmos fan from 1977 until the team folded in 1985. I loved winning the NASL championship almost yearly, but over the years I have realized that the Cosmos are the reason the NASL no longer exists.

posted by Mike Juran at 12:36 PM on July 06, 2006

That's a plausible theory, MJ. As I recall, conventional wisdom at the time held that the league did not maintain because there weren't enough American players of consequence in the league (other than Ricky Davis, who was overrated). In essence, that no American wanted to go see a bunch of foreigners play ball. I don't necessarily buy that, but probably more because I don't like what that says about us as a culture than there actually might be some truth to it. Here are the year over year avg. per game attendence figures from the Wiki. They definitely read like text book metrics from a failed business. 1971 - 4,517 1972 - 4,282 1973 - 5,782 1974 - 3,578 1975 - 10,450 1976 - 18,227 1977 - 34,142 1978 - 47,856 1979 - 46,690 1980 - 42,754 1981 - 34,835 1982 - 28,479 1983 - 27,242 1984 - 12,817 As much as try to watch MLS games, the level of play doesn't seem to rise much above what I see in the Mexican League. I've more or less given up on Soccer ever hittting it big (again) in this country, and now (thanks to FoxSportsWorld) that I am able to see Arsenal, ManU and Chelsea play every week, I mostly don't care.

posted by psmealey at 01:08 PM on July 06, 2006

Great article, for the pictures as much as the words.

posted by Fat Buddha at 04:09 PM on July 06, 2006

I was at that match too, psmealey. I was 11. My dad drove us all the way from Washington, DC to be there. He ended up taking me to a few Cosmos games because I was a Chinaglia fan (despite his being a cherry-picking bastard). We went to a bunch of Diplomats games too. I remember seeing Johan Cruyff scoring a goal from midfield that left my jaw on the floor. I was very young, and at the time this impressed me.

posted by scully at 05:25 PM on July 06, 2006

Watching the Cosmos was a total joy. Like many Americans, I grew up playing soccer. I still enjoy playing it when I can. Odd that we have so many youth soccer leagues in America but that it can't sustain itself on a professional level.

posted by Joey Michaels at 10:04 PM on July 06, 2006

This was a year or so post-Pele but I worked for the Giants Stadium food concessionaire (Harry M. Stevens, they had most of the big places in the northeast in those days) and seeing the Cosmos was my introduction to the sport. I also got to work some big concerts like the Grateful Dead with New Riders and Willie Nelson. In the land of the Yankees--with Steinbrenner money starting to work--the two time champion Knicks, the Giants crawling out of the doghouse, the Cosmos and their big spending seemed to my naive eyes to be of a piece. Cool, nothing wrong with it.

posted by billsaysthis at 12:16 AM on July 07, 2006

I went to see the film a few months ago. It was great to see the clips of the players, Pele especially, up on the big screen. I guess, in the end, money can't buy everything though.

posted by Fence at 06:21 AM on July 07, 2006

I saw Pele play the first half of a game against Dallas Tornado at Texas Stadium in '76. He had a bad hammy but I'm sure the organizers pressured him into limping around for the heaving masses. One thing I don't see mentioned much is that NY actually made a run at Georgie Best after they tried in vain to sign Pele. Apparently Best went off on one of his infamous binges in Spain and the Cosmos gave up. It was never meant to be, but could you imagine Pele and George Best in the same shirt, even past their primes?

posted by Texan_lost_in_NY at 01:12 PM on July 08, 2006

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