By Paul Nicholson
January 11 – New York Cosmos continued their rollercoaster ride with the announcement of a new majority owner, US cable television entrepreneur Rocco Commisso. The news comes days after the team announced it would participate in the NASL next season alongside after the US Soccer Federation granted the league Division II status.
Commisso takes over outgoing chairman Seamus O’Brien and his new money effectively saves the club from closing for a second time in its history.
“Like so many of our fantastic fans, I have followed the Cosmos since the fabulous days of Pelé, Chinaglia, Alberto, and Beckenbauer,” Commisso said in a statement. “With my deep roots in the New York City area as a former player, youth coach, and proud supporter of the Columbia University soccer program, I look forward to building on the rich history of America’s most iconic soccer club.”
Part of Commisso’s new contribution to the club will likely be a return to playing in New York City. The club started discussions to play at MCU Park in Brooklyn, home of baseball Mets’ Class A team in the New York-Penn League. Another alternative is Columbia, which renamed its soccer stadium in upper Manhattan after Commisso in 2013. They have been playing on Long Island at Hofstra University’s stadium.
O’Brien relaunched the Cosmos in the NASL in 2013 and the team has won the championship three times in four season. But with money getting tight O’Brien shredded the club operations in December and said that if the NASL did not have 12 teams next season then Cosmos would not play as the business model was not sustainable.
Players and staff have not been paid since November and alongside coach Giovanni Savarese, only three players remain for the season that starts in April: defenders David Ochieng and Ryan Richter and midfielder Eric Calvillo.
The NASL has an eight-team league for the coming season and the all-important Division II status for at least one more season – alongside challenger league the USL and its two conference 30-team league. The confirmation of Division II status apparently triggered Commisso to take the plunge into team ownership.
The NASL needs to raise its team numbers to 12 to satisfy on-going Division II criteria for future seasons unless the USSF grants further dispensations to its rules.
Commisso is the Chairman and CEO of Mediacom Communications Corporation, a company he founded in 1995 and which he wholly owns with his family. With more than 4,600 employees it is nation’s 5th largest cable television provider with annual revenues in excess of $1.8 billion.
An Italian immigrant, Commisso arrived in the US aged 12, going on to attend Columbia University earning both a BS degree in Industrial Engineering and an MBA degree from its Graduate Business School. He played for the Columbia Lions from 1967 to 1970 and was a Co-Captain of the 1970 team that made Columbia’s first ever appearance in the NCAA Playoffs. A three-time All-Ivy League Honoree, he was invited to trial for the U.S. Soccer Team organised for the 1972 Olympics.
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