Commisso takes over Cosmos, who likely will play within NYC
NEW YORK (AP) — The Cosmos have a new owner and likely will be moving from Long Island to New York City.
Rocco B. Commisso, chief executive of Mediacom Communications Corp. and a former soccer player at Columbia, purchased majority ownership of the team in the second-tier North American Soccer League and will become the club's chairman.
"I acknowledge there's going to be losses, like every other soccer investor acknowledges when they first come in," he said Tuesday during a conference call with reporters.
New York players and staff have not been paid since November or December. Coach Giovanni Savarese said only three players remain for the season that starts in April: defenders David Ochieng and Ryan Richter and midfielder Eric Calvillo.
"We have to recreate everything," Savarese said.
Commisso, who will control the team, said his first priority was making good on liabilities. Chief operating officer Erik Stover said employees, most of whom had been laid off, will receive back pay by Thursday.
"Let's get something clear: Rocco is not known for screwing anybody," Commisso said.
The Cosmos relaunched in 2013 under CEO Seamus O'Brien and won titles in 2013, 2015 and 2016. O'Brien and his ownership group are diminishing their role to minority partners.
"We have found our savior," Stover said.
Overshadowed by Major League Soccer's New York Red Bulls in Harrison, New Jersey, and New York City FC at Yankee Stadium, the Cosmos have been playing at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium in Hempstead while they sought a new stadium next to Belmont Park. Average home attendance declined from 6,859 in 2013 to 3,775 last year.
Commisso said a newly built venue was not a priority and there was a high probability the Cosmos will play within New York City. He said the team started discussions to play at MCU Park in Brooklyn, home of the Mets' Class A team in the New York-Penn League, or Columbia, which renamed its soccer stadium in upper Manhattan after Commisso in 2013.
Commisso, who grew up a Juventus supporter in Italy's Calabria region, declined a chance to buy an MLS team from the Anschutz family in the 1990s and an invitation to join the group that took control of Roma in 2011. He began Cosmos negotiations just before Christmas but held off on completing his purchase until the U.S. Soccer Federation's decision Friday to extend the NASL's Division 2 status provisionally for 2017. The league is contracting from 12 teams last fall to eight this year, but Commisso said it hopes to expand in future seasons.
"Given who the Cosmos are, without the Cosmos, the league may not have even survived," Commisso said.
The 67-year-old Commisso was co-captain of Columbia's 1970 team that made the Lions' first appearance in the NCAA playoffs.
Featuring Pele, Franz Beckenbauer and Giorgio Chinaglia, the Cosmos played in the old NASL from 1971-84 and folded in 1985.