Rocco B. Commisso: “I’m doing everything I can from my side to make sure that they continue playing.” (FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)
By Michael Lewis
UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Cosmos owner Rocco B. Commisso intends to have his team continue to play next year, although he doesn’t know exactly in which league it will compete.
Speaking after the Cosmos’ 2-0 win over ASC San Diego in the National Premier Soccer league semifinals Saturday night, Commisso said that could be determined by the lawsuit he and the North American Soccer League has filed against the U.S. Soccer Federation.
“I can’t speak for next year because we’re in the midst of this lawsuit and the lawsuit would have a huge baring on what’s going happen to the Cosmos and the future of the Cosmos,” he said at the Mitchel Athletic Complex. “We’ll see what happens.
“The intention as it’s been from day one is to make sure the Cosmos will compete somewhere. But we don’t know in what form or where. But as I said, I’m doing everything I can from my side to make sure that they continue playing.”
After next week’s NPSL championship game, the Cosmos will begin competing in the six-team NPSL Members Cup, a watered-down version of the Founders Cup, Aug. 10. Announced last year, the Founders Cup had 11 teams, but several clubs, mostly on the west coast have dropped out.
Depending champion Miami FC, which will meet the Cosmos for the NPSL crown at Mitchel Saturday, was one of those teams and will compete in National Independent Soccer Association (NISA).
“We started with many more,” Commisso said. “We pushed for this. It took a lot of time organized it. Frankly, I promised the team I would do everything I can to convince the powers that be in the USSF to let us play and we got it. We have only five or six teams. One of those teams are on the west coast. They have to travel back and forth. We’ll put it up the money to make it work for the team and we’ll see what happens.
“We’re still in the midst of this huge lawsuit. As I promised, I am not giving up and haven’t given up. I can’t forecast the final result but I’m confident that good things will happen.”
In 2017, the North American Soccer League filed an anti-trust lawsuit against the USSF. The suit stems from the fact U.S. Soccer rescinded the league’s second-division status in September 2017. The NASL has not held a season since 2017.
Commisso is helping to pay for the lawsuit.
“They destroyed the NASL. That’s the whole essence of the lawsuit,” Commisso said. “They created significant financial and reputational damage to our league, to Rocco, to the New York Cosmos and they’re going to suffer the consequences. That is the whole rationale, and the whole reason for the lawsuit.”
Commisso, who recently purchased Fiorentina in Italy’s Serie A for a reported $150 million, had some strong words about the USSF.
“Someone went out of their way to hurt us and they did,” he said. “I’ve been at this for two years at the NPSL and I am fighting. That doesn’t mean I have certainty that good things come out of this thing. But I am confident after all this money that has been spent, that after all these efforts, after all these lawyers, the problem with the USSF, and you can quote me on this, it’s that it’s run by all these lawyers with other people’s money. It’s not one person at the USSF that’s putting their money at risk to fight this lawsuit. Rocco is. And that’s the shame of this all. It’s not their money. They’re taking. If they lose this lawsuit, they’re taking little kids to make sure they get their way and that’s got to come out.”
The Cosmos owner claimed the USSF was using funds secured from youth soccer registration.
“It could have been very easily handled if they had done it the right way,” Commisso added. “If they had treated me the same way they treated the USL [United Soccer League]. What were we asking for? We were asking for the ability to continue on playing.”
When Commisso purchased the Cosmos in January 2017, he took over the reins on the condition that the NASL would continue to be a Division II league. At the time, it was sanctioned to do so.
“Otherwise, tell me right now and I don’t want to come in,” he said. “So, they made me come in. I spent a lot of money. We’re talking about tens of millions of dollars here. Spent a lot of money. Then Sept. 1  they pulled the rug from under us that you can’t play anymore. The USL was recognized as a Division II league in January or February the following year . They said there are no options available to you other than re-apply again possibly as Division Three. I said, ‘Screw you, I’m not going to do that and we’re going to fight this out in the courts.’ ”
The lawsuit is still in its discovery period and is expected to go to trial in early 2020.