By Michael Lewis
Are the Cosmos going on hiatus?
It certainly looks that way.
The Athletic’s Jeff Rueter said on Twitter Thursday that the National Independent Soccer Association was “on hiatus for reasons related to the pandemic.”
While confirmation could not be obtained from team management Friday morning, several players said they have heard about that possibility, but they didn’t know the exact direction of the club. The players asked for anonymity.
According to one source close to the team, nothing had been confirmed from the club on this season or the future of the team.
The Cosmos did not respond to requests for comment.
If there is a hiatus, it was not known how long it would be. The NISA is split into two seasons, spring and fall. So, the Cosmos could sit out the spring season and return in the fall. There is precedent for that. When the Cosmos returned to competitive professional soccer in 2013, they sat out the North American Soccer League spring season and made their debut in the fall. They won the fall title and the NASL championship, defeating the Atlanta Silverbacks, the spring champion in Atlanta, 1-0.
The New York Cosmos are on hiatus for reasons related to the pandemic, sources tell @TheAthleticSCCR.
In May, I chronicled the club’s past decade — from the NASL to NISA with glitzy moments along the way. https://t.co/JuLcw8Gvdn
— Jeff Rueter (@jeffrueter) January 7, 2021
The Cosmos are owned by Rocco B. Commisso, who bought Fiorentina in Italy’s Serie A in 2019. Since then, Commisso has put much energy, time and money toward that team.
New York is coming off the poorest season in team history, finishing at 1-3-6 over three competitions in a NISA campaign cut short by the pandemic. The Cosmos scored 11 goals, conceding 13.
On Sept. 29, a day after the Cosmos were eliminated from the NISA Fall Tournament, Chief Operating Officer Erik Stover expressed the club’s dissatisfaction with the team’s performance.
“This was a very disappointing fall season,” he said. “We didn’t live up to our expectations and the expectations of the fans and we will have to make some changes in preparation for the spring season.”
Stover did not say what specific changes that might be made or talk about the future of head coach Carlos Mendes, who has directed the team for the past three years.
The Cosmos have enjoyed a storied history, winning eight NASL titles, three after their reboot in 2013. A level of excellence is expected by the team, players, coaches and fans. Anything less than a championship is considered failure.
“We will use that extended offseason to analyze everything and set out a plan for moving forward,” Stover said in September.
“We’re only partway through the 2020-21 season, so the good news is that we have time to get things corrected to compete for a championship.”
There has been no update issued by the club since then.
Soccer teams have gone on hiatus before with varying results.
The Rochester Flash went on hiatus for the 1983 American Soccer League season but returned to action in 1984 in the United Soccer League, which is now defunct. The Flash did not return to competitive soccer in 1985.
In 2017, the Rochester Rhinos suspended operations in the USL Championship. The team’s owners said they would return in USL League One but did not give a timeline.
The pandemic has severely hurt professional sports. Major League Soccer lost in the neighborhood of $1 billion in 2020, according to commissioner Don Garber, who added that the league could not sustain such losses this year.
According to one national source, at least one USL Championship team had been considering taking the year off because of the pandemic.