Op-Ed: The New York Cosmos Would Thrive in Liga MX

It all started one long “Soccer Saturday” at Smithfield Hall with my friend Richard; the de-facto mayor of the legendary soccer bar. We had just learned that a club very near and dear to both our hearts was in its apparent death throes despite tremendous success on the pitch. After winning their third Soccer Bowl in four seasons, the New York Cosmos were broke, and their demise was imminent.

While we reflected on the long and exceptionally rich history of the franchise, we threw around ideas of how we could buy and save the club. Richard mentioned the potential success the organization could attain by moving to Liga MX. The idea had some merit to it but was so farfetched that we could only laugh it off.

As the news of the Cosmos’ struggles became more desperate by the day, I kept returning to the idea Richard hatched. As farfetched as it was, and still remains, the idea could alter international sports forever. While it is a groundbreaking plan, the implementation would be the hardest aspect.

With the Cosmos unable to pay their staff and players, owner Seamus O’Brien is desperate to find an investor after losing a reported $30 million since they rejoined the NASL. The opportunity exists for an enterprising investor to buy the Cosmos brand for pennies-on-the-dollar, and instantly create value previously unheard of in American soccer. The enterprising investor would have to coordinate the purchase with the Federación Mexicana de Fútbol Asociación (Mexican soccer federation).

By buying the New York Cosmos, keeping them in New York, and joining the Mexican soccer pyramid, the new owner would open up a floodgate for Mexican soccer fans living in America. Liga MX is the most watched soccer league in the United States, and no other league comes anywhere near it. That vast, minimally tapped market would likely eat up the opportunity to watch their favorite clubs travel to New York to take on their local hometown team in competitive matches.

MLS has done something very similar by placing clubs in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. The strategic placements have effectively guaranteed the 22-team American League a virtual monopoly over Canadian soccer fans. The major difference between MLS and Liga MX in this case study is that, unlike MLS where owners can buy into the league, the Mexican federation requires teams to advance, via promotion, to the top-flight; Liga MX. As a result, it’s all but guaranteed the Cosmos would have to start at a lower-tier division and work their way up via promotion. Advancement from the lower leagues would take years, but given the significant resources the club would have they could likely look toward RB Leipzig as a replicable model for quick success.

It’s probable that a New York-based Liga MX team would outdraw both Red Bull New York and NYCFC, possibly even combined. One of the many reasons for the Cosmos’ recent failure was their inability to secure a site from the state for their proposed 25,000 seat soccer stadium in Belmont. Per Newsday, one of the Empire State Development Corp’s (the body in charge of awarding development rights for state land) major concerns with the proposal was the team’s ability to fill such a large venue. Considering the 2015 Soccer Bowl only drew ~9,000 patrons, the EDC’s concerns were justified. However, with the immense Liga MX fan base in New York, a Mexican-based New York Cosmos club would almost certainly alleviate those concerns. With teams such as Tigres, America, Guadalajara, and others coming to New York regularly, Mexican soccer fans would flock to those games.

If the New York Cosmos/Liga MX experiment bore fruit, the Mexican soccer federation could use the organization as a springboard into the US market. Mexican teams based in cities such as Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, Miami, and other cities with large Latino populations would likely dominate their respective markets; regardless of the existence of MLS teams there. In essence, the Mexican soccer federation would follow US Soccer’s strategy into other continental markets, and likely dominate them.

As laid out above, such an idea is so farfetched and complex that it probably has never been discussed with any amount of urgency. However, if the minds required to make such a tectonic shift in international sports possible come together, perhaps they will see the same potential Richard and I do.

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