Rocco B Commisso: “If they don’t let the Cosmos play, what can I do?” (FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)
By Michael Lewis
UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Cosmos owner Rocco B. Commisso hasn’t decided yet, but he admits that it has been difficult to find a league in which his team can compete next year.
“It’s a tough decision,” Commisso said at halftime of the Cosmos’ 3-1 win over Chattanooga FC at Mitchel Athletic Complex Saturday night. “I have not made up my mind yet. Clearly, if nobody let’s us play, how can we play? NISA doesn’t want us, the NPSL doesn’t want us and I’m just not going to field a team of amateurs. That’s not the Cosmos.”
In an interview posted on this website July 29, Commisso said intended to have the Cosmos team continue to play next year, although he didn’t know which league it will compete.
Much has happened since then.
The first-place Cosmos, who are participating in the 10-game NPSL Members Cup this fall, finished second in the National Premier Soccer League season, losing in the championship game to Miami FC, 3-1, Aug. 3.
The NPSL will not allow teams with professional players to compete in the league starting in 2020. The Cosmos have used professional players the past two seasons.
NISA, the National Independent Soccer Association, which started up this autumn, provisionally has been sanctioned as a Division III league by U.S. Soccer. Chattanooga FC and Detroit City FC, which are competing in the Members Cup, will commence play in NISA next spring.
“From what I heard — I didn’t speak to them personally — is that they might have a lot of problems with them getting Division Three if they let the Cosmos in,” Commisso said. “I heard it from some of our people that are in touch with the situation. U.S. Soccer is just putting stumbling blocks in front of us.”
He later added: “If they don’t let the Cosmos play, what can I do?”
Commisso and the North American Soccer League have filed an anti-trust lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation. “We have to keep this lawsuit going on,” he said. “It has taken too long, frankly. We’ll see what happens.”
Asked if the Cosmos had other options for 2020, Commisso replied, “Not if people don’t let us play. We already have one lawsuit. Let’s see what happens from that lawsuit. It’s just unfortunate that we have people in place, elected to be on the board of the USSF whose primary job is to make sure the Cosmos don’t have the light of day to play.
“It’s sad, it’s disgusting.”
He later added: “It’s sad for the players. I could afford to lose money. I think we’re up to $30 million here. So, it’s not a penny. There’s principles and I will fight those principles and they know that. But they know that they can’t pull me down that fast. There are laws in this country. There is a major lawsuit going on and the depositions have already taken place. I feel good. I feel good as to our chances of getting a final judgment in the court system.”
Commisso said that he has not set a deadline as to when he will decide on whether the Cosmos will perform in 2020.
“Let’s wait for the season to be over, then we’ll make some decisions,” he said. “We’ve got a good hand, a strong hand, in respect to the lawsuit. A lot of stuff has been uncovered in depositions.”
The team still can compete in the NPSL as Cosmos B, an amateur side, but Commisso said possibility that was still up in the air.
“I haven’t made that decision,” he said. “At the end of the season I will regroup with my team and see what we should be doing here.”
In June, Commisso purchased Fiorentina for a reported $150 million. He said he decided to buy the Italian Serie A club because it participates in a league that has promotion and relegation and that teams can determine its own destiny on how much money it spends on players.
“When I look at my team at Fiorentina, it’s a small city, a beautiful city. the level of money that we are spending for players, dwarfs — it’s huge — in relation to what an average MLS team pays. They are keeping still, average, below average type of soccer to play here in the U.S.”
Commisso’s lawsuit is expected to go to trial in 2020, if there no more delays.
“They are not going to kill me,” he said. “They tried, but they can’t do it. So, I’ve gone and invested my money in a meritocracy, where there’s promotion and relegation and its sorely needed in this country. What’s unfortunate is that the powers that be at FIFA are looking more at the money that could be made in the U.S. in the  World Cup. So, it is opposed to the telling the U.S. to fix up their soccer regime, how soccer gets managed here in this country. That’s the unfortunate part.”
Commisso then reiterated his feelings on the lack of a promotion-relegation system in the U.S.
“They want the same closed system that appears in other sports in this country,” he said. “Rarely you see any teams go bankrupt, rarely do you see any teams lose money. It’s a system made to prevent competitive forces to hit the pocket books of the billionaires. It’s not me. The system is not to produce a winning soccer nation and that’s the shame of it, that we’re getting the World Cup again with nothing to prove on the field. We’re still second, third, fourth rate, and it’s a shame.”
Fiorentina (1-2-2, 5), which is 15th among 20 teams in Italy’s First Division, plays at 11th-place A.C. Milan (2-3-0, 6) Sunday.
Commisso said that he was satisfied with his new club.
“Absolutely,” he said. “Look at the love the people have for me. Someone in Europe put out a list of the teams with the percentage of new players on the starting team. We’re No. 1. I’m glad I closed the deal in two weeks. I’m glad that I got started in June. It would have been disastrous to have closed in August. We brought a lot of new players and let’s see what happens. We have a big game [Sunday].”