The original Galacticos: New York Cosmos

Lee Spencer

Last November, New York Cosmos won their third NASL trophy in four years. A fantastic achievement considering that in 2010 they rebranded the club after it went bust in 1985.

But just like in 1985, the club once again are on the brink of going under. It’s a terrible situation for one of America’s most famous. Especially back in the 70s when they had such star attractions like Pele and Franz Beckenbauer turning out for the club. Forget Real Madrid, Cosmos were the original ‘Galacticos’ before the ‘Galacticos’ were even a thing.

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To tell this story we  go back to 1970 when the club was first formed. A brain child of brothers Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegun and company president of Warner Communications, Steve Ross. The first roster signing of the club was Gordon Bradley, an English born professional who had played lower league football for the majority of his career. He had made 130 appearances for Carlisle United. Bradley was named player-coach, a position he held until 1975.

In the club’s first year they finished 2nd and had acquired a young Bermudan named Randy Horton. Horton finished the second season top scorer and MVP, with Randy playing a big part in securing the Cosmos their first NASL title win.

The next two seasons didn’t continue the success story, with the Cosmos knocked out in the semi-final stage, and the following year saw them finish bottom.

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Then came 1975, which during the season New York Cosmos made their first ‘Galacticos’ signing. The club stumped up 1.4 million-dollars-a-year to bring the Brazilian superstar Pele to New York. The salary, a colossus amount for a sports star back in the 70s. It was not only what Pele did on the pitch for New York Cosmos, but also the commercial razzmatazz off it. His debut televised worldwide in 22 countries. Suddenly the Cosmos were not only on the map in America, but with a bang around the world.

That season, the club only finished third in the NASL, unfortunately it was not enough for Bradley to keep his job, with his replacement being another Englishman, Ken Furphy. The Cosmos pulled off another coup with the signing of Italian striker Giorgio Chinaglia from Lazio. Chinaglia became an instant hit and played alongside Pele upfront. The Italian scored 193 goals in 213 appearances.

That season they reached the Divisional Championship match only to be beaten by Tampa Bay Rowdies. Furphy was replaced by Bradley who was trusted once again to lead the club. Half a season later, he was moved to an administerial role and replaced with Eddie Firmani.

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The Glory Years

Pele played his last match for the Cosmos in 1977 and into the club came another Brazilian. Brazil captain Carlos Alberto arrived along with the German, Franz Beckenbauer. Both true Galaticos in their own right. Everything that season clicked and the Cosmos won their first title in 1977. They quickly followed this up by winning the NASL title again in 1978.

Following more managerial changes, Julio Mazzei then became manager and followed this up by winning the title for a third time in 1980.

With the decline in broadcasting of NASL games in 1980, the league and the teams participating all started to struggle. The Cosmos with their high wages found themselves battling to keep their star players.

They won their last title in 1982, and then in 1984 the NASL league folded. The Cosmos, that final season didn’t even make the play-offs, the first time that had happened since 1975. It showed the sharp decline of this once great club.

New York Cosmos joined the Major Indoor Soccer League but withdrew due to the low attendances. The club stopped playing competitive football in 1985 and eventually folded.

2010 Rebranded

New York Cosmos have since been rebranded in 2010 and despite numerous attempts to join the MLS, The Cosmos are back playing in the NASL, winning the title in November 2016. They are, however, still signing ‘Galacticos’, even if they are in the twilight of their careers. Ex-Real Madrid and Spanish striker Raul playing for the club in the 2014/15 season.

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But the NASL league is dwindling once more. Clubs have moved to other leagues or folded and with attendances down, the Cosmos once again find themselves struggling financially.

We wait to see if this is the second nail in the coffin for the club. But if the club can survive and possibly make their way into the MLS. However, for the time being, New York Cosmos will continue to take their place in the NASL which kicks off in March this year.

Whatever the outcome, whether that’s in the NASL or MLS, let’s hope we get to see America‘s most famous club thrive once more.

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