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MLS Halloween Nightmare: Donald Trump, New York Cosmos & The End of the MLS - Part 1

November 20, 2011 - After lining up press credentials for Hot Time In Old Town writers for the MLS Cup, MLS Superdraft, MLS All-Star Game, MLS Anything and Everything, I the editor had finally saved up some travel money to enjoy MLS Cup weekend myself.  'Sorry everyone, step aside.  Executive decision, I'm taking this assignment and I won't hear anything to the contrary.'  Red Bull Arena was selected to be the site of the big event and the big news was Donald Trump was going to the new owner of the New York Cosmos.  While it wasn't 100% official it was the worst kept New York soccer secret since Thierry Henry was joining the Red Bulls.  It's funny how their news always seems to string along in the soccer press for weeks at a time... 

A big press conference for the Cosmos announcement had been arranged but with it being a rubber stamp certification type event, I was more excited about meeting my fellow SB Nation MLS bloggers.  We had all agreed to sit in the back corner of the right hand side of whatever tiny room they were holding this joke of a thing.  I was still trying to figure out why Trump picked the Warwick Hotel instead of the Trump International or the Trump Soho when I realized I was lost in its interior.

Spotting a uniformed individual I asked, 'Excuse me sir, which way to the Trump press conference?'

'The main ballroom is down this hall, take a right, and then take another right.' 

'Thank you kindly'  - Wait a minute the main ballroom?  Ah Trump, nothing can be simple right?  After a couple of minutes I found myself in a space that was already quite full.  Our SB MLS blogger plan wasn't going to work too well... it's not just quite full, it's standing room only!  There are no seats and about 200 people are already standing around.

Surrounded by colleagues, I say to the air, 'The MLS grows in this country everyday.  I had no idea so many reporters traveled to covered this.'

A man in a dark suit turned to me, 'You out of your mind?  75% of us here cover the New York business beat.  Trump's press people begged us to be here.  Said we would deeply regret it, put our reputations on the line by not being here, blah blah.'

'And you believed them?  I mean a good PR profession--'

'Do we look like the kind of people who don't understand this?  I have no idea what Trump is going to say but it is going to be very big.  Do you work for the Springfield Shopper or something?'

The other reporters laugh hysterically and all I can think is oh that New York charm.  What was supposed to be a nice meet and greet has turned into a full on circus with a sideshow of a shame fest for me personally.  As I attempted to become invisible, I was saved by the bell of some intro music for Donald Trump to take the stage.  Great, let's get this started and let's get this over with.  

'Welcome everyone to this historic press conference.  Today I will confirm to you that I, Donald Trump, will be the new owner of the New York Cosmos.  I am honored to become a part of the greatest soccer organization to ever exist in the United States of America.  It is even more humbling to be its leader as the dawn grows brighter on soccer in our nation.  In the past 15 years, Major League Soccer has gone from 10 teams wondering if they were going to exist the following year every year to 19 proud franchises or at least 17 proud franchises and the New York Red Bulls and FC Dallas.'

Oh wow, the Donald is quite good.  I love the burn on FC Dallas while building up a little rivalry with NYRB.

'Major League Soccer has made many mistakes along the way including alienating true soccer fans in favor of media created soccer moms, encouraging referees to let some matches turn into competitions that could be mistaken for rugby games, and having a stadium placement policy that favors suburban over urban and vice versa depending on who had the last word.  For all of these reasons, I am here to announce the New York Cosmos will never play a single game in Major League Soccer.  In fact, I am proud to announce that today marks the beginning of the end for the MLS.'

General pandemonium took over the room but I wanted everyone to quickly shut up.  What in the world was behind this idea and what could Trump possibly have up his sleeve?

A couple of questions were fired by the press - 'Is this the long awaited New York EPL team?'

'No, but I'm not ruling anything out in the future.  That is a great idea for maximizing revenue.'

'Are you turning the Cosmos into a Harlem Globetrotters like organization?

'No, that would be an incredible waste of an opportunity.  Please, everyone, let me continue.  In researching the New York Cosmos, my financial team came to the realization that over a billion dollars have been improperly invested by the MLS and the teams in its organization.  

A small band of the soccer reporters seem indignant in the front and start shouting that Trump's billion dollar figure is way off.  The wise-ass reporter cracks 'Hey MLS guy, what does he mean 'its organization'?  The MLS is one entity?', as the eyes of the business beat writers turn to me to see my reaction.

'Oh now you want my thoughts, yes, fine, that's correct, it's all one company.  No one has ever seen their books though so I'm not sure how he can claim the bill--"

'Again, everyone, I have the floor.  No more interruptions.  I am not suggesting that something is awry in the MLS office although we would never know because they keep their books private.  I am stating that over a billion dollars have been wasted by building stadiums that are outside of urban areas, marketing money that has been spent on strategies that don't work, and different soccer rules designed to make the sport more 'American' ruined their first impression to real soccer fans.  Not only is it taking a long time to attract some of those fans back to the game, a good portion have been alienated forever.  I have major problems joining a secretive organization that has obviously invested so poorly in areas we can observe in public.  I can only imagine what lies behind the curtain.

Don't get me wrong, there have been some positives from the MLSI did after all seek out this chance to invest in the New York Cosmos because it looked like a great opportunity.  The ownership groups in Toronto, Philadelphia, Seattle, Salt Lake City, Vancouver and Portland have done a great job with their launches.  The first era organizations of Columbus, D.C., Colorado, New England, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Kansas City have shown you can maintain a stable soccer organization in the United States for 15 years and have something to look forward to as well.  Based on all of those lessons, I promise you the New York Cosmos are going to become the premier soccer team in the United States of America by playing in a league I announce to you today - the American Premier League.

Part 2 continues the story...