This weekend’s 2-1 victory over Fort Lauderdale Strikers at MCU Park in Coney Island, Brooklyn, saw the storied New York Cosmos make it to the finals of the North American Soccer League (NASL) championship for the seventh time.
An important victory for a team that isn’t obsessed with joining Major League Soccer (MLS), but more interested in its growth and rebuilding what was once one of the world’s best-known sports teams.
Fox News Latino spoke exclusively with Erik Stover, the team’s chief operating officer, and Giovanni Savarese, its head coach and sporting director.
FNL: What are your ambitions for the team?
Erik Stover: Our goal is to build the best soccer club in the United States and to return the Cosmos to global prominence. These are ambitious goals that require a strong foundation. We believe that our foundation will be built on the grassroots level of soccer in New York and by developing a first class youth system.
We have just started taking first steps on the youth level. We recently announced 19 affiliate clubs throughout the New York metro area and we have applied for academy status with U.S. Soccer. Our plan is to start with three teams, U12, U13 and U14. We hope to hire our academy director within the next few weeks followed by coaches and support staff. We expect to be moving full speed ahead by the first couple of months of 2016.
FNL: Explain the youth academy structure.
Stover: We are providing a fully-funded academy that is modeled on the best clubs in the world. We believe that it's the responsibility of professional clubs to develop the next generation of world-class players. This responsibility should not fall on the federation. Relying on the federation is an inefficient and ineffective way to develop players.
Our expectation is to develop players in a unified structure that feeds all the way up to our first team. By having one philosophy, one style of play and specific training requirements, we expect to develop youth players into professionals that will be ready to slide into the first team when called upon. If we are successful, then we will ultimately be developing players that could feed into the national team.
FNL: Why is a strong youth structure so important to the organization?
Giovanni Savarese: I think a real soccer club needs to have its technical side complete … You have to have a first team, a reserve team, an academy because you need to make sure that you have a plan. Part of the plan is to develop players that come from within the club; that players that are able to be in the process of understanding what the ideals of the clubs are. I think it has to do a lot with helping the game in the United States.
FNL: It’s fair to say that a team like the Cosmos could easily become an MLS team if it wanted to. Why do you prefer NASL? Is it a better business model?
Stover: We had the option of going into MLS, but we chose the NASL. There's been some chatter that the Manchester City group was chosen over us for MLS. That is simply not true. We announced our decision to join the NASL more than a year before the Manchester City group was announced in MLS.
We chose the NASL for several reasons. The first is that it is a club-first model. The MLS is a league-centered model with a lot of rules encumbering the individuality of the clubs.
Also, the NASL lines up more with the global game. Whether it is player movement, the youth structure or commercial regulations. We have the freedom to do what we feel is best for our club.
The Cosmos will play Ottawa Fury FC, which beat MLS-bound Minnesota United, 2-1, in its weekend semifinal. The final is at Shuart stadium in Hempstead, New York, Sunday at 5 p.m. Eastern.
Chat of the week
The grassroots soccer organization, Year Zero Soccer is having its first summit in Chicago next Saturday, and they are asking: “Can an Individual Change the Soccer World?” The Summit will include an hour-long Twitter Q&A on the state of youth soccer with the group's leadership using the hashtag #YZChicago at 11:00 a.m. Central time.
According to a press release, the summit “will continue Year Zero’s mission to the advancement of soccer as an open and accessible sport in the United States.”
Video of the week
Watch as former Spain and Real Madrid star striker, Raúl, scores the winner for the New York Cosmos during Saturday's semifinal against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in front of more than 5,000 fans. Raúl and Cosmos teammate Marco Senna, play the last game in their storied careers at next week's final.
From the wires
Argentina forward Carlos Tevez is a doubt for Thursday's key World Cup qualifier against Brazil in Buenos Aires with an injured left knee.
The possible absence of Tevez, confirmed Monday by the Argentine Football Association, adds to concerns for Argentine coach Gerardo Martino, who will also be without Barcelona star Lionel Messi and Manchester City striker Sergio Agüero.
Messi also has a left knee injury, while Agüero a torn hamstring in his left leg.
Few teams have Argentina's depth in attack with Gonzalo Higuaín, Angel di María, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Angel Correa and Nicolás Gaitán still available.
Argentina, the runner-up to Germany last year's World Cup, has only one point from its first two World Cup qualifiers. Brazil has three from its first two matches.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.