Top Stories

O’Brien says Cosmos ‘couldn’t play’ in USL, business has ‘zero debt’


New York Cosmos chairman Seamus O’Brien has spoken for the first time since the club’s issues were publicized, and he came out on the defensive.

Speaking to the Guardian, O’Brien admitted to the $30 million in losses since 2013. However, he claims that the business is fine.

“The business has zero debt,” said O’Brien, according to the Guardian. “That’s an investment in a business. That is a fraction of what some people have invested in this country. Look at all the MLS investments. They wouldn’t call that debt. That is an investment in our business. Our business carries zero debt. All the money has been invested by shareholders.”

With the NASL losing club after club to the USL, along with the league’s unknown future, the Cosmos could jump over as well, but O’Brien doesn’t want that to happen.

“The Cosmos couldn’t play in the third division. We just couldn’t do it,” he said. “And everybody we have spoken to, the discussions we have had internally amongst the group and our major partners, to a man – that is just not an option for us.

“There are a number of folks with the NASL, many of my colleagues there that believe in the future. It’s not that we don’t believe in the future of the league – it’s just that we can’t play in a seven-team league.”

O’Brien laid the blame on the league with regard to the Cosmos’ issues. He also admitted that he is not going to sell his stake in the club and is going to weigh his options.

“We just want to take a step back. We have been saddened by this situation more than anyone else. As anyone will vouch, we have done more to try to advance the status and progress of the NASL … So we will sit back, look at all the options. People have been calling us, but let’s just say we want to do things as professionally as we can in the interim.”


  1. thank you so much for posting this link, peter. it’s a great read on this topic.

    now i think i see what o’brien’s doing. the cosmos are going into hibernation. because the nasl may fail (again). well, that makes perfect sense to me. obviously, you wouldn’t want to accept season ticket deposits for next season if you really thought that the league is going to fold mid-way through the season, yeah? you wouldn’t want to treat your valued customers that way, no business people would.

    i have a solution for mr. o’brien. all things considered, i think he should run the cosmos as a non-profit organization. base it out of nyc so it can remain, forever, the “new york cosmos”. the purpose of this non-profit sports team will be to raise money for charities. for example, fighting cancer. they would not own nor need their own stadium. i envision this non-profit sports team touring the usa and canada in their own specially painted bus kind of like the harlem globe-trotters of old. they would spread the cosmos brand and their love of the game and hope for a cure for cancer and goodwill everywhere they would go. they would win championships, figuratively speaking, inside people’s hearts. they could also accept blood donations in the parking lot, too, through cooperation with local hospitals as part of their tour planning. it would be easy to find 11 guys willing to play on this team on a short-term basis. players would consider it to be an honor, to spread love of the game, to get blood donations, to raise money to fight cancer. i envision that the caliber of player they would have would be between amateur and semi-pro. i think often, a special player like the nba’s steve nash or the nfl’s ocho cinco would be honored to join these charitable games when they came to their cities.

    the new york cosmos: timeless. grassroots. for the love of the game. for the cure.

    • Cant tell how serious you are. Sounders used to be that way when they were in the ALeague/USL leagues
      100% of the profit, certain percentage of the total revenue. Which ever was larger.

      • totally serious. i sincerely make this suggestion. really, the sounders gave money to charity in their early years? interesting, i didn’t know that.

  2. It is very clear to me,…

    (1) the Cosmos brand would be a huge addition to MLS.
    (2) Garber has made it clear there will be no third team in New York.

    (3) the Red Bull’s,….while shaping up to be a solid club,…are a sh!t brand. Mind you, I am a season ticket holder!

    Therefore,…the best option is for Cosmos to buy the Red Bull’s franchise/club along with RBA and re-brand as Cosmos. Then they could sell the naming rights for RBA back to Red Bull.

    • I started off thinking this was stupid.

      But when you think about it, the hurdle was always Cosmos not wanting to do it MLS’s way, they need the un-level playing field.

      Now they have no leverage and are desperate. They are probably open to it with zero other options. The Cosmos name, even if you hate it, has to be more loved than Red Bulls sponsorship/nickname.

      It still might be dumb in that the Cosmos have no money and the Red Bulls probably sell for $250 million if anyone was crazy enough to sell while EVERYONE else is looking to buy…for a reason.

      • Two additional point so:
        1) What is sad is that MLS/Stu Subotnic could have purchased the brand from Pepe Pinton in 1995 for $3-5M and hit the ground running. Instead along came the Metrostars,….or as Paul Gardner called them,…the Rotmasters.

        2) Red Bull could get creative and buy the Cosmos brand and rebrand themselves. Maybe O’Brien, et al, would cut losses for $5-10M.

  3. Our Divisions are stupid if there isn’t promotion/relegation which isn’t in the cards for MLS.
    But maybe USL could do it with the number of teams and absorb/merge deal with remaining NASL teams.

    • Look at MLB. Would you say their divisions are stupid? They don’t have pro/rel yet seem to be doing ok. Their divisions are providing a professional ladder for players to climb and work their way into ‘The Show’.

      This is what we should be doing for MLS.

      btw I’m fine with pro/rel – but not until we have 90+ teams over multiple divisions (not just two) that are economically stable and aren’t 1 season away from folding. We’re not there yet. Cosmos just proved that.

  4. The business has zero debt, but its owners are out at least $30 million. Their “investment” in soccer has yielded them an asset with a value that is shrinking as we speak. They gambled that they could parlay their brand into a US Open Cup and CCL play, but unlike the 70s, there was a lot of competition for soccer fans, so the brand couldn’t generate the necessary dollars. As in the 70s, however, the Cosmos underestimated the importance of a stable league. The only realistic options for the survival of the brand is an expanded, Division 2 USL, or getting bought by and melded with one of the two MLS clubs in the NY area.

    • Why would NYRB or NYCFC buy them? There is no value to the MLS teams…they are both selling their own brand/product.

      This was just a bad investment but perhaps they can recoup their money through some tax write off.

      • NYCFC does not currently have a USL team. The Cosmos seem destined to land in the USL, or disappear. It’s a real long shot, but NYCFC could buy the Cosmos and use them as NYCFC2. I know it won’t happen since City would want to use it’s own brand and not the Cosmos. Also, the Long Island Rough Riders just announced a plan to build a small stadium and enter the USL, and I think the LIRRs already have some sort of affiliation with NYCFC.

        Anyway, I’m sure the Cosmos’ landlord, who just sued the Cosmos for unpaid rent and eviction, will be happy to know they have zero debt.

        Amazing that, as the ship is sinking (maybe already sunk), O’Brien still maintains that the Cosmos are too good for the USL.

    • Exactly. And in truth, it would probably be even more disturbing if he had actually found somebody insane enough to provide debt financing for such a wildly unrealistic strategy.

      I guess his point is that they won’t need to go through a bankruptcy before the investors are forced to sell off the only (semi)meaningful asset they have left– the brand. Can’t imagine they’ll recoup much.

  5. “The Cosmos couldn’t play in the third division. We just couldn’t do it,” — so what if USL is a 30-40 team second division? sounds like there is a possibility for that.

    • The whole idea of divisions is dumb to me….and I think to the Cosmos. They were winning NASL, not “second division”, whatever that means.

      My guess is they couldn’t play in a minor league to MLS, which USL definitely is.
      I get that, I wouldn’t either. Investing $30 million for a minor league franchise, feeding MLS?
      I wouldn’t either.

      • How about losing all 30 million because you refuse to acknowledge/make decisions based on reality? They have few choices and no leverage… never did although they seem to have staked a small fortune on the premise that somehow the Cosmos “brand” was bigger…. would win out over US Soccer. I dunno….. maybe they liked it much better when they didn’t have to actually compete…. when they could pitch gear and blather on about imagined/overblown past glories.

      • Well to be clear, I wouldn’t have invested in the Cosmos. The Sounders couldn’t make it in essentially the same league, but somehow the Cosmos are going to?

        Give me a break.

        But now that they have thrown all that money away. What do they do? USL is not the answer to earn your money back. Maybe there is no answer like you say.

  6. “It’s not that we don’t believe in the future of the league – it’s just that we can’t play in a seven-team league.” This may be the most grounded, realistic statement that’s come out of the Cosmos organization in the past decade. I think/hope the blinders are finally off.

    Hopefully, they stop acing like they’re hovering above the rest of American soccer. I wish this had happened 5 years ago and they had become the second NYC team. Not sure anyone knows the inside story of who rejected whom or if there ever were meaningful discussions about Cosmos joining MLS


Leave a Comment