By Michael Lewis
Citing new rules restricting the use of professional players, the Cosmos announced late Monday afternoon that they will not compete in the National Premier Soccer League in 2020.
As to which league they might participate in next year, that has not been decided yet.
With the new rules set for next year, the Cosmos said they had no choice but to leave the NPSL.
“With the change in the NPSL structure and new amateur requirements, we can confirm that we will not participate in the NPSL in 2020,” a team spokesperson said. “Regarding our other options, we are still evaluating them and expect to make a decision as soon as we have more information.”
One option would be the National Independent Soccer Association for the 2020 fall season, although the Cosmos don’t have much time to decide. NISA’s application deadline for U.S. Soccer is Nov. 1, meaning the Cosmos must apply for entry in the league with the next two weeks.
League commissioner John Prutch said that NISA has had preliminary and three “really good conversations” with Cosmos management and club attorney Tom Larsen.
“It’s led to the Cosmos deciding whether or not to apply,” Prutch said. “They are in that process right now to join the league. But it has been very good discussions.”
Prutch added that there was a chance U.S. Soccer could give the league a bit more time for applications. NISA has been provisionally sanctioned as Division III league by the country’s soccer governing body.
The 2020 spring application deadline was Aug. 1. Several NPSL Members Cup teams — the Cosmos are competing there this fall — will play in the 14-team NISA, including Miami FC, Detroit City FC, Chattanooga FC and Michigan Stars FC.
Besides the NISA board of governors approving new teams, they also need to be vetted by U.S. Soccer as well, Prutch said.
“The process is fairly complex,” he said. “There are a lot of requirements from U.S. Soccer that we have to go through. It is somewhat time consuming. Once that’s done, then we go down a parallel path with U.S. Soccer as they are approving the new clubs. We are as well with the league. We approve them before U.S. Soccer does.”
The approval process includes an application review by the board of governors, the team’s owners, and a presentation by the prospective club and a vote. “Typically, what’s been happening is that we finish the process before U.S. Soccer,” Prutch said. “It takes time because they are vetting clubs for all the leagues, not just NISA, obviously.”
The elephant in the room is the anti-trust lawsuit by Cosmos owner Rocco B. Commisso and the North American Soccer League has filed against U.S. Soccer. The Cosmos competed in the NASL from 2013-17, winning three titles.
Asked if he saw that as an obstacle for the Cosmos joining NISA, Prutch replied, “I would put soccer aside for a second. Say I own a business and I am about ready to become a partner with a businessman and the businessman has a very large lawsuit outstanding. It would give me pause as a businessman, just to try and protect yourself. But I would tell you that is an issue that the board of governors will discuss at the appropriate with the Cosmos. It’s just a matter of taking our time and doing our due diligence just as you would in any transaction.”
NISA’s board of governors would have the final say on any prospective expansion teams. Speaking as commissioner, Prutch would love to have the Cosmos in the league.
“We would welcome the Cosmos, from the league’s perspective. I am talking from the league office,” he said. “There is a process that you have to go through, so I don’t want to pre-judge where it’s going to end up, but from the league office perspective having a club like the Cosmos involved would be good for us.”
The Cosmos (6-1-2, 20 points) are in the process of wrapping up their NPSL Members Cup season with their final regular-season game at Napa Valley 1839 FC Saturday at 10 p.m. ET. The second-place club trails Detroit City FC (7-0-1, 23) (there are no playoffs in the Members Cup). Detroit has a game in hand.
New York was defeated by Miami FC at home in the NPSL final Aug. 3, 3-1.