June 16, 2016
WHY IT'S BELSON AND NOT SHUART
Stover: Hofstra says Cosmos can't host Open Cup matches involving MLS teams
By Michael Lewis
The Cosmos are unable to host future Lamar Hunt/U.S. Open Cup matches involving Major League Soccer teams at Hofstra University in the future because of what has transpired in the past.
That is why they are playing their Round of 16 match against the New England Revolution at Belson Stadium at St. John's University on June 29, instead of Shuart Stadium.
Hofstra officials cited crowd and security issues over the last two years, mostly from a fourth-round Open Cup game between the Cosmos and New York City FC last year, according to Cosmos Chief Operating Officer Erik Stover.
"We have been told by Hofstra that we cannot host any MLS teams in the Open Cup at Shuart Stadium," Stover said on a media conference call Thursday afternoon. "This stems from some security issues, altercations, and fan behavior over the last couple of years of matches that we've hosted there. We spent quite a bit of time trying to change their mind of that decision and unfortunately we haven't been able to do that."
Stover said there have been incidents involving fans over scarves and hats at the 2015 NYC FC match.
"Most of it was from last year," he said. "There were a few altercations. ... A fair amount of complaints to the university from the patrons at the event. It's nothing unusual that you've seen at soccer matches before. We haven't had any security issues really in the three-plus season that we have played there except last season at the NYC FC game.
"Obviously, any altercation is totally unacceptable. But from my understanding of the circumstances it wasn't excessive in any way like riots or anything like that or hooliganism that you have seen elsewhere."
So, the Cosmos have put in an application for all future Open Cup matches at Belson, Stover said. They will host the New England Revolution in a Round of 16 game at St. John's University in Queens on Wednesday, June 29.
"We're confident that the stadium for the Revolution game will be adequate," Stover said. "We'll see what happens if we advance on what the best course of action will before the next round should we advance and definitely on who we host."
The Cosmos call Shuart home for their North American Soccer League matches, where they have played since 2013.
If the Cosmos get past the Revs, there could be issues at Belson for the July 20 quarterfinals. And Stover might have to be forced to make a difficult decision for the good of the game and not necessarily for the good of the Cosmos.
"From a team point of view, if I was Gio [Savarese, the coach], I would be saying I am taking this one game at a time," he said. "But it's my job to plan these things out. We may find ourselves in a situation where it's the best interests of the tournament that hosting at Belson is not the right thing to do."
Given Belson's small capacity (2,500), it would not be wise to put derby fans in the same stadium.
"Say, had we hosted NYC FC this past game," Stover said. "I'm not sure the layout of that venue would be appropriate to have to have two rival supporters groups in that facility. In the upcoming game with the Revolution, there's no concerns whatsoever and I am 100 percent confident that we can manage everything perfectly safely.
"But there will come a time, whether it's just a demand of ticket sales or public safety, where there may be a very difficult decision that needs to be made."
Assuming both sides prevail in the Round of 16, the Cosmos could very well wind up hosting the Red Bulls. It would be much more logical to hold the game at Red Bull Arena and its 25,000-seat capacity compared to one-tenth the size of Belson.
"We will speak to our opponent if we advance and we will speak to U.S. Soccer," Stover said. "There's a possibility that we might have relinquish the right to host if we think it's in the best interest of the competition and public safety."
The Cosmos booked a spot in the fifth round by defeating NYC FC at Fordham University Wednesday night, 1-0, on a late goal by Danny Szetela.