‘The neighborhood and the sport, it’s a perfect marriage. People will come.’
By Scott Enman
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The only thing missing from the New York Cosmos welcome party on Monday night was a ride on the iconic Coney Island Cyclone.
With the team’s name lit up on the famous Parachute Jump and with the celebration happening at the legendary Gargiulo's Restaurant, it was safe to say that Brooklyn was all in for the squad that was once labeled "the most glamorous team in world football."
The Cosmos are one of the most storied franchises in sports history, having been led by Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pelé, who is undeniably regarded as the greatest athlete to ever play the Beautiful Game.
His outstanding ball control, superb tactical ability and unbelievable runs through entire teams were admired in both Brazil and the United States on the pro level, where his gifted feet graced the pitches of Yankee Stadium and Giants Stadium.
And while Pelé is long retired, his beloved team and its celebrated history remain, and both will be on full display come April 1 when the team plays its first home game at MCU Park.
“This is about welcoming a major sports franchise, arguably one of the most successful soccer franchises in the entire country, right here to Coney Island,” Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce (BCC) President and CEO Andrew Hoan told the Brooklyn Eagle. “It’s great that there’s a team here, that MCU Park is going to have more people and more visitors to Coney Island … It’s a real simple thing: jobs, economic development, more year-round activities here in Coney Island.
He added, “We wish their name was the ‘Brooklyn Cosmos,’ but we’ll go with the ‘New York Cosmos.’”
The event was co-hosted by BCC and the Alliance for Coney Island and was held just across the street from the team’s new home.
At the gathering, Hoan presented Cosmos Chairman Rocco B. Commisso with a “Brooklyn Cosmos” shirt, a hopeful gesture that the team might one day brandish the borough’s name across its jersey.
When the New York Islanders moved to Brooklyn, although they did not change their name to the Brooklyn Islanders, they did embrace the borough by removing the Long Island silhouette from the team’s logo and introducing an alternative black and white jersey reminiscent of the Nets attire. Whether the Cosmos do the same remains to be seen.
“The fact is that Brooklyn is the hot place to be in New York City right now,” Councilmember Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) told the Eagle. “If a team is going to come into New York City, what better place than Brooklyn? We have all of the facilities here, it’s modern and it’s exciting. You can see the excitement in this room and it’s going to build as time goes on.
“The Cosmos have a really good management team put together now. Rocco B. Commisso has resurrected this team and they’re coming from the hinterlands of Hofstra University over to the big time, the big leagues in Brooklyn, New York.”
The Cosmos compete in the North America Soccer League (NASL), a second-tier professional soccer league.
The United States Soccer Federation classifies professional soccer competitions into three divisions: Division I, Division II and Division III.
Division I consists of Major League Soccer, home to the New York Red Bulls who play in Harrison, N.J. and New York City FC, who play at Yankee Stadium.
Division II contains NASL and the United Soccer League.
There are no sanctioned Division III leagues currently.
The Cosmos have won eight NASL championships, including last season, and three times in the last four years.
In a market with two professional soccer teams already, only time will tell if the Cosmos will be able to draw out Brooklynites, but Hoan isn’t worried.
“Why ever leave Brooklyn when you can just come straight here to Coney Island?” he told the Eagle. “When you’re done with the game, you get on the Thunderbolt, you go ride the Cyclone, you stop into Luna Park, you go walk on the Boardwalk, you get a Nathan’s hot dog, you come for a great Italian meal at Gargiulo's. You get the complete Brooklyn package when you’re here at the New York Cosmos watching a game.”
“I cannot think of any other sport that unites more people around the world than soccer,” Councilmember Mark Treyger (D-Coney Island-Gravesend-Bensonhurst) told the Eagle. “We are also living in one of the most diverse neighborhoods in all of New York, if not all of America. I myself am a son of immigrants. I represent many families here that relish soccer.”
He added, “It’s a great day for Coney Island and a great day for soccer. The neighborhood and the sport, it’s a perfect marriage. People will come.”
Whether the Cosmos cement themselves as a Brooklyn staple to be mentioned among the likes of the landmarked Parachute Jump, Coney Island Cyclone and Gargiulo's Restaurant remains to be seen.
Its quest for that designation begins in Brooklyn on April 1 at 7 p.m., against Miami FC.