The former Santos and Cosmos striker explained that the competition between three teams in the United States' largest will benefit the sport's growth in the country.The New York Cosmos will make their long-awaited return to professional soccer in August but the biggest question remains on why the club wasn't considered as Major League Soccer's 20th franchise.
MLS recently named New York City FC as its second team in the metropolitan area. Instead of waiting on rejoining MLS to reboot their franchise, the Cosmos decided to kick off their comeback this year in the North American Soccer League.
Considering the Cosmos part of American soccer history, there are some who have called MLS's decision a mistake. Pele, perhaps the greatest player of all time, disagrees.
"I don't think it's a mistake because there are a lot of opportunities at the moment," Pele stated to Goal. "The Cosmos are a universal name. Everyone knows the New York Cosmos."
Pele starred for the Cosmos for two years from 1975-77. The team thrived with the Brazilian legend's presence, drawing sellout crowds across the country. The players became celebrities in the New York City area. Once Pele retired, the old NASL folded after losing fan interest and teams overextended themselves financially. There are some concerns that the Cosmos could be repeating some of those mistakes.
Despite not being in MLS, the Cosmos plan to open a $400 million stadium in the Belmont Park area of Long Island just outside New York City. Considering that the New York Red Bulls already struggle to draw fans to their top-notch $200 million venue in Harrison, N.J., is it wise to spend so much while being outside of the U.S.'s top league?
Pele believes that the New York area can handle three teams and that having a good level of competition between the trio is great for soccer in America.
"I think this is good for the country of the United States. Soccer is the biggest sport in the world and for New York to have three teams is good," Pele explained. "It makes things more competitive and it's very good for the city. Of course, we are going to have an opportunity to be there."
As for the Cosmos' chances at MLS, Pele is very confident about the team eventually joining the league.
"Maybe next year we can be there," he said.
Very unlikely, but the Cosmos hope to put on a fight against the city's MLS clubs for the time being.
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