June 16, 2016
SLIM AND NONE
Cosmos face little or no options for a medium-sized Open Cup venue in the metropolitan area
By Michael Lewis
The Cosmos are between a rock and hard place when looking for small- or medium-soccer venues to host Lamar Hunt/U.S. Open Cup matches.
With Hofstra University telling the North American Soccer League champions they can't host Open Cup matches involving Major League Soccer teams because of crowd control and security issues, there are not many options around the metropolitan area.
During a conference call with the media Thursday afternoon, several possible venues brought up, including Mitchel Athletic Complex, Citi Field. Jack Coffey Field and MCU Park.
All are not viable options for one reason or another, Cosmos Chief Operating Officer Erik Stover said.
"For us, Belson is the one," he said of Belson Stadium, home to the St. John's men's and women's soccer teams in Queens, N.Y.
The stadium seats 2,500, which is perfect when the Cosmos plays a Premier Development League, USL or an amateur team. It could be a problem later on in the tournament against an MLS side. The Cosmos will host the New England Revolution at Belson on June 29.
Stover said adding extra seats to accommodate a larger crowd at St. John's wasn't viable.
"I think the university would be reluctant to do that," he said. "It's not just about physically to just get seats in there. You have the facility to handle the increased capacity of people -- bathrooms and concession stands, parking, all the things that come with a rise in capacity for a temporary event. So I think it's probably a situation where if the demand is going to be too high, we'll have to look at another solution.
Stover added: "The footprint of that facility is rather small. There are some things that can be done to adapt it a little bit to make it a little more functional. But for what it is, it is a great little soccer stadium. St. John's has a good program. The management at the University has been great when we've been there in the past."
Let's go through those options, one-by-one:
Mitchel Athletic Complex
The stadium adjacent to the Cosmos' training facility in Uniondale, N.Y. The venue seats around 7,000. The Long Island Rough Riders called it home in their early days, winning the 1995 U.S. Interregional Soccer League championship on that field. The New York Power (Women's United Soccer Association) also called it home during its three years of existence (2001-2003). Even the MetroStars (now the Red Bulls) played an Open Cup game or two there back in the day.
But that was then and this is now.
The field does not measure up to basic pro soccer standards and there also is the issue of stadium availability.
"The field is totally unacceptable to play a professional soccer game on," Stover said. "The quality of the turf is an issue. And when you add football lines, lacrosse lines, logos and everything, it makes it almost impossible from a competitive standpoint that it would be acceptable."
Wait, there's more.
"That facility is booked solid the entire year, so date availability is a big challenge," Stover said. "And that's part of this process. It's difficult for a team like us in the situation that we find ourselves with Hofstra and New York State waiting on approval for our stadium. that process with U.S. Soccer requires you to confirm dates well in advance at venues. At those times you don't know who your opponents are. And if you don't have your own stadium that has reliable dates, we find ourselves in a situation like this."
The Cosmos used the Brooklyn Cyclones' baseball field for two games in 2015, including an NASL playoff semifinal. The stadium seats about 7,000 and has artificial turf, and not surprisingly, that is part of the problem. The pitch would include a green outfield and a brown infield.
"MCU is an issue with the field," Stover said. "There were complaints about the games that were played there about the different colored turfs, with the baseball infield and the green outfield. Until we find a suitable temporary field, like they have in Oklahoma, MCU is not an option."
The home of the Mets seats around 45,000. It has been used for soccer in recent years, including for the International Champions Cup and international friendlies. Of course, that stadium is better suited for games that require large crowds. Open Cup matches in the metropolitan traditionally have much smaller crowds.
"Some people talk about going to Citi Field. That's numerous scheduling challenges in an Open Cup tournament, but also it is cost prohibitive. You saw last night there were about 4,000 people in Fordham. The economics of that don't make turning Citi Field into a soccer stadium for one night makes it extremely risky, particularly when you don't know who your opponents."
Jack Coffey Field
The venue of the fourth-round encounter between New York City FC, the host side, and the Cosmos Wednesday would seem to be a stop-gap measure. But there is one problem: it was only going to be used only once.
The artificial turf field seats around 7,000 fans; about 4,000 showed up for Wednesday's match. The lack of a nearby rapid transit had to hinder a larger crowd.
See below for further explanation
And the others ... don't ask
There are other possibilities, but Stover said he wouldn't delve into each and every one.
"I'm not going to take everybody's time about every possible venue in the metropolitan area," he said. "Trust me, I've done it numerous times."
As it turns out, the Cosmos find themselves in the same Open Cup boat as NYC FC in trying to secure a field for the competition. City calls Yankee Stadium home as it searches for an appropriate spot in the city to call home. Ditto for the Cosmos, who are awaiting New York State's decision on the club's proposal to develop Belmont Park. They also have some other possibilities in the metro area, which includes the city and northern New Jersey.
"The one thing I can say, NYC FC is facing the exact same challenges that we are facing," Stover said. "They were able to hold Fordham just for that round and they were holding Belson as well as us for the rest of the time. So I guess of these clubs are in a situation where lack of progress in stadium development is hurting both teams."