With just sixty days left until their on-field return, the New York Cosmos pulled out all the stops today for a big announcement. In a media event held at the rather posh Four Seasons Hotel, the team brought out Honorary President Pele, chairman Seamus O'Brien, and coach Giovanni Savarese to welcome not a big-name player to their roster, but a big-name sponsor to their jerseys, becoming the latest soccer club to be sponsored by Dubai-based airline Emirates.
Emirates is perhaps one of the most visible sponsors in European football, having put "FLY EMIRATES" on the jerseys of powerhouses like Arsenal, Paris Saint-Germain, AC Milan, and (as of last week) Real Madrid. Why sponsor a club that hasn't played in decades? "As with our sponsorship of the U.S. Open tennis tournament," explained Nabil Sultan, Emirates SVP of Revenue Optimization and Distribution, "Emirates views our partnership with the Cosmos as a way to thank the people of New York for making Emirates one of the world's fastest growing airlines." Sultan later explained further: "The Cosmos is a great brand, the fan who follows the brand is incredible, to be honest. We felt this is a brand that we could work with and hopefully grow."
With New York City FC joining MLS in 2015, one might think the Cosmos have a massive uphill battle ahead to find a steady fanbase - but O'Brien isn't sweating the new competition. "That's a few years away, so we have a few years to get our ship up and running...the soccer economy of this city is more than large enough to deal with three teams that will probably be based in three reasonably distinctive areas...I think this will be the biggest soccer market in the world in my lifetime."
And yet, the Cosmos chairman dropped hints that there may still be some chance that the Cosmos might yet find a way into MLS. Despite remaining "very happy" with the decision to focus on the second-division NASL, he indicated that there are ongoing discussions with Major League Soccer. When pressed to explain, O'Brien offered: "Don (Garber) and I talk reasonably regularly, not every week but in passing. We share ideas and plans. I think we have an extremely cordial relationship. He knows why we're here today and what our aspirations and our missions are." With MLS currently all crazy about Beckham in Miami, the Cosmos might not be on the immediate roadmap, but it's good to know that dream isn't quite dead.
While there's still a lot of details left to fill in about the Cosmos plans, one looms above the rest: the Cosmos have just 15 players on their current roster. Rumors had swirled that Spanish international Marcos Senna might be announced today, but "Gio" refused to speculate on the player, who is still presently under contract to Villareal. When we spoke with Savarese last fall, he indicated that he wanted to have filled out his roster by this point in the year - but today, he expressed his roster plans were still "on track". Needing to fill out at least another 7 roster spots in short order, expect more player signings at a rapid pace in advance of the August 3rd kickoff.