Erik Stover on the Cosmos moving to Brooklyn: “There is the sense of small town in a huge city, so I think that’s going to mean a lot for us.” (Michael Lewis/FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)

By Christian Arnold

Front Row Soccer Writer

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – The Cosmos have never struggled to put a competitive product on the field, but off the field the team has struggled to make much headway during its four years on Long Island.

But with the team now calling Brooklyn its new home, Cosmos management is hoping to get another crack at making the team as successful off the pitch as it is on it.

The Cosmos’ struggles have been well documented from not being able to build their own soccer-specific stadium at Belmont Park to a contentious relationship with Hofstra University, where they played, to declining attendance to lack of exposure in the local market. New York has certainly has had its fair share of uphill battles, but the franchise is hoping some of that can be alleviated by the move.

“It’s a very different market, Brooklyn, than Long Island,” Cosmos chief operating officer Erik Stover told Front Row Soccer on media day at the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge Tuesday. “It’s very different. I think in a lot of ways Nassau County, in particular, is kind of a disparate group of towns that aren’t totally connected with what’s happening in Nassau County. Here, the reaction I’ve gotten from the civic leaders, the business leaders, and the elected officials is that Brooklyn is all about Brooklyn. And we’re going to do whatever we can to help you out …

“There is the sense of small town in a huge city, so I think that’s going to mean a lot for us.”

When the team returned to competitive play back in 2013 it understood it would be judged on the product on the field and how many fans it drew, Stover said. The team has lived up to its end of the deal putting together North American Soccer League championship teams in three of the last four years, including winning back-to-back titles in 2015 and 2016.

However, drawing in fans has continued to be an issue.

“We did that occasionally in Nassau County,” Stover said, referring to drawing large crowds to a game. “It was hard to maintain it. We had some great games and we had some bad games. It was really hard to get to a level that we were proud of consistently.”

NY Cosmos chief operating officer Erik Stover talks about the team's latest challenge

تم نشره بواسطة ‏‎Michael Lewis‎‏ في 24 مارس، 2017

 

The Cosmos attendance figures have fluctuated during their four year stay at Hofstra’ Shuart Stadium in Hempstead, N.Y. The team returned to existence to a sold-out crowd of 11,929 in August 2013 and has seen large crowds for Lamar Hunt/U.S. Open Cup matches, but attendance has declined as time passed. The Cosmos averaged 3,451 during the 2016 NASL campaign.

The NASL’s flagship team is hoping to see a bump in attendance in their new digs at MCU Park in Coney Island, and Cosmos ownership is already claiming that it has sold more season tickets for this year than last year on Long Island. The team would not give specifics as to how much of an increase it saw, but Stover credited Brooklyn and the connections that new owner Rocco B. Commisso has.

The Cosmos’ aggressive push in the New York market likely has helped increased awareness about the club and its new Brooklyn home. The NASL club has taken out extensive ad space out across the area and on TV, as well as inking broadcasting deals with WPIX and MSG Networks to broadcast Cosmos games this season.

“Obviously as a player you feed off the energy in the stadium and your fans, and obviously having a nice market on TV,” captain Carlos Mendes said. “That’s all a big part of it. Obviously Rocco has a lot of connections and that’s great for us. I think that all adds to the excitement of looking forward to 2017 and representing this club.”

Even with the renewed optimism from within the Cosmos organization, the team has still had to deal with the preconceived notions that come with playing in the second division of the U.S. soccer landscape. Part of getting past that narrative was getting the club partnered with a major broadcasting partner, the other part is spreading the message to support your local team.

“Much like the growth of MLS 10, 15 years ago there was a lot of conversation about supporting your local club,” Stover said. “People in New Jersey had to support the Red Bulls. … You can be a Juventus fan, you can be a Sporting fan, but you should also support your local club. It’s definitely another message we have to get across in New York City. Support us because we’re trying to grow the game here and we’re growing it in a way that I think is reminiscent of the global game, so we need you to support it.”

Whether that support is sustained in Brooklyn or not, there is optimism about the team’s success in the new borough. The Cosmos open the home portion of their schedule April 1 against Miami FC.