Before playing a single game, the Cosmos mount an expensive challenge to M.L.S.
For the New York Cosmos, whose rebirth on the field begins this August, the path to relevance is a completely uncharted one.
For now, they won't be playing in Major League Soccer, the nation's top league, but in second-division North American Soccer League. Opponents won't be domestically known commodities like the New York Red Bulls or Los Angeles Galaxy, but clubs like Minnesota United and F.C. Edmonton.
But their grand plans--most notably the parts that involve spending money--indicate that the Cosmos won't be content to be a good little team. They need, somehow, to be a good big one. And they're attempting to do this in a country where it still feels at times like the sport of soccer itself is fighting a battle for legitimacy, no matter how many success stories M.L.S. can point to, particularly in northwest markets like Seattle and Portland.
Still, the Cosmos have achieved some things over the past week that begin to make their ambitions seem less ridiculous.
The Cosmos, named after the original North American Soccer League franchise and largely owned by the Saudi Arabian Sela Sport, has brought Emirates Airlines on board as a jersey sponsor. Typically, that's a sponsor found across the chest of world soccer heavyweights, such as Arsenal, Real Madrid and Paris St. Germain.
There's also the question, given that the new Cosmos have only existed until now as a marketing exercise, rather than an actual team that plays actual games, of who will be wearing that Emirates Airlines uniform.
The answer would be, among other players more typically found on an M.L.S. roster, Marcos Senna, the star midfielder from Villareal.
Reuters reported Wednesday that Senna would join an M.L.S. club, turning down several offers from other teams in Spain's La Liga. But no. He's going to the Cosmos, and reportedly for a salary equivalent to what M.L.S. pays its designated players, the off-the-books stars like Thierry Henry and Robbie Keane.
But who will watch Senna and his teammates? After all, the Cosmos won't play against the M.L.S. sides until next season's U.S. Open Cup. And the N.A.S.L.'s position, as of last year, was that they chose not to get a television contract.
No problem: the Cosmos got a national television deal, all by themselves. All seven Cosmos home games this fall, beginning with their August 3 debut against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, will be broadcast in high definition on One World Sports, a network available on DISH Network, Cablevision and Mediacom, a cable provider primarily in the midwest and south. Anyone not served by these three providers can watch on OneWorldSports.com.
And the Cosmos have top-tier broadcast talent. J.P. Dellacamera, voice of the Philadelphia Union and one of the best play-by-play domestic soccer broadcasters, will call the games. And old-Cosmos legend Shep Messing, whose observations add to New York Red Bulls contests, will be providing color commentary.
The deal reinforces that at least so far, the ceiling that's existed for M.L.S., particularly in the New York market, just doesn't apply to the Cosmos. That's true when the ceiling is a self-directed one, such as a salary cap and three designated player limit that the Cosmos, in the cap-free N.A.S.L., don't need to live with. And it's true when a team, dormant for roughly 30 years, can get on television absent a compelling league, or without having played a single game.
Some of what comes next is beyond the control of the Cosmos. They'll open their season playing at Hofstra University, just as the original Cosmos did in their first year. It'll be up to New Yorkers to get out to Hofstra, and fill the 13,000-seat stadium seven times.
That absurdly beautiful stadium at Belmont Park is, as of right now, just a rendering. And One World Sports is hardly E.S.P.N., or even N.B.C. Sports Network. Fans will need to work to find the Cosmos, rather than just happening upon them.
But the Cosmos are making remarkable headway in their quest for relevance in a market that is still, despite the presence of the Red Bulls and 2015 start date for N.Y.C.F.C., up for grabs.