Pier 40 on the Hudson River at the West end of Houston Street is already a popular soccer venue. Youth teams train here. Vincent Grady is the coach of the Downtown United soccer club. His young players work out here a lot.
I practice three times a week. And with my girls’ team I practice three times a week.
The New York Metro area already has a professional soccer team. It’s called the New York Red Bulls and plays in Harrison, New Jersey.
But Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber is focusing on New York as a location for the 20th team in the league because of the city’s soccer history.
In the 1970’s, the New York Cosmos were the biggest name in the sport with German great Franz Beckenbauer and Brazilian soccer legend Pele.
“Pele scored. The New York Cosmos have just scored…” Crowd cheering.
Daily News reporter Filip Bondy covered the team during its heyday in the early 1980’s. He says before the Cosmos and the North American Soccer League it played in folded, the team frequently filled up Giants stadium.
You would go there and there would be 77,000 fans screaming in the seats at Giants stadium. So, it was an amazing time for them. It really was this amazing sense of ‘This is our chance to see real soccer,’ so it was quiet an event.
Bondy says it was an event that helped raise the visibility of soccer and attracted many younger players. He thinks the Cosmos helped to make the United States a more competitive national team.
There is no doubt about it, in my mind, the the U.S. national team would not be where it is right now, and certainly would not have qualified for the World Cup in 1990 because it was really a New York – New Jersey team.
Ever since then, soccer has been getting more popular across the country. Last year, attendance at M.L.S games went up about 6 percent. Here in the New York Metro area, the Red Bulls drew a little over 18,000 fans to home games. That’s about 2,000 more than the season before.
Dennis Coates teaches sports economics at the University of Maryland. He sees no reason why the greater New York area can’t support a second team.
If the Red Bulls playing in New Jersey draw lots of fans from New Jersey and Staten Island and so on, and nobody from out on Long Island, nobody from Brooklyn and the Bronx and so on, then it’s very possible that if you put a team in downtown New York, it will attract a completely different set of fans than the team in New Jersey.
A new Cosmos club might be that team.
A group of investors revived the old name in 2010. The team made Pele the honorary president, put former French superstar Eric Cantona in charge of development and made the late Italian player and Cosmos legend Georgio Chinaglia the team’s ambassador.
Chairman and CEO Paul Kemsley said that he was confident the Cosmos would become the 20th team in Major League Soccer.
But new owners took over the team last fall and Kemsley resigned. All that’s known about the new owners is that they are from Saudi Arabia. Whoever starts a new team in New York, is going to need a lot of money. MLS has said the new franchise will cost 100 million dollars.
Meanwhile, New York soccer fans know no more about what’s going to happen than they did before.
There is going to be a new stadium and it will probably be at Pier 40. But Daily News reporter Filip Bondy says the rumors have been going on for too long,
BONDY: Show me the stadium and then I’ll believe.
The amateur soccer players who were playing there on a recent afternoon, see putting a field at Pier 40 as a mixed blessing.
Can I ask you something? Will we be able to play in the professional stadium?
That is Kevin Castro. He goes to high school in Queens and plays for Downtown United. He and about 10 of his friends, dressed in Barcelona and Manchester United t-shirts and shorts, pick one goal and start passing to each other. They come to Pier 40 five times a week. Castro says building a stadium at the location would mean they would lose their practice ground.
To be honest with you, I don’t really think it’s…It’s nice to have a stadium around, close, to come and watch the games. But it will take everybody’s playtime. This is a field where everybody’s been coming here for a really long time. It wouldn’t be a good thing.
There are still a lot of questions about Pier 40 as a stadium venue. Within a month, The Hudson River Trust, which operates Pier 40, expects a report compiled by consultants suggesting what commercial opportunities may be possible at the field.
Meanwhile, the new Cosmos organization says it is continuing to meet with M.L.S officials.
Hristina Tisheva, Columbia Radio News.