Don Garber on Cosmos: MLS is 'not going to have a third team' in New York
TORONTO -- If the New York Cosmos are ever going to be an MLS team, their iconic brand would need to replace one of two existing franchises in the United States' largest metropolis.
MLS commissioner Don Garber made it clear Friday that the New York area will not add another club alongside the Harrison, New Jersey-based New York Red Bulls or New York City FC, which entered the league as an expansion team in 2015 and shares Yankee Stadium with Major League Baseball's New York Yankees.
"We have two teams in New York," Garber said during his annual state of the league address before Saturday's MLS Cup final between Toronto FC and the Seattle Sounders. "We are not going to have a third team."
The Cosmos had been playing in the second-tier North American Soccer League since 2013, winning the title that year, in 2015 and again last month. But they reportedly recently ceased operations after suffering a reported $30 million in losses, and with the financially troubled NASL's future in doubt.
The original Cosmos rose to prominence in the 1970s in the old North American Soccer League by luring global stars like World Cup winners Pele and Carlos Alberto of Brazil and Franz Beckenbauer of West Germany, drawing huge crowds at the since-demolished Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The team folded alongside the NASL in the mid-1980s.
But the club was revived in 2009, when a group led by former Tottenham Hotspur vice-chairman Paul Kemsley bought the name with the goal of relaunching the team in MLS, which was looking to add a New York-based rival to the Red Bulls.
"It's a great brand," Garber said Friday. "I spoke to the original purchaser of the brand many, many years ago. I had numerous conversations before NYCFC came in."
But Kemsley was bought out in 2011, and the new owners decided to join the lower league rather than pay the $100-million expansion fee MLS was asking for.
"They made a decision that I'm sure is one they thought was the right thing at the time," Garber said.
There has been recent speculation that the Red Bulls, named after the energy drink its Austrian owner produces, could rebrand as the Cosmos if team is eventually sold; Red Bull's long-term commitment to the MLS club has been questioned in the past. Red Bull GmbH bought the club in 2006, changing the name from the MetroStars and moving the team from Giants Stadium to Red Bull Arena, which opened four years later.
NYCFC also serves to market a product that its majority owner, Abu Dhabi's City Football Group, also runs, in its case Manchester City of the English Premier League.
For now, what will become of the Cosmos' world-famous name is uncertain.
"I wish them luck, and I don't say that lightly," Garber said. "When it reverberates around the world that there is instability in professional soccer, I don't think that's good for anybody."
Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.