Last year, the Cosmos won one of the most exciting matches in their short reboot history, forcing 120 minutes of soccer and penalty kicks with NYCFC. But from the jaws of victory, the Cosmos also took away a defeat.
On a call Thursday, Cosmos COO Erik Stover disclosed information that may impact the home field advantage the Cosmos have often relied on, especially in their Open Cup matches.
“We’ve been told by Hofstra we cannot host any MLS teams in the Open Cup at Shuart stadium,” explained Stover. “We’ve spent quite a bit of time trying to change their mind over that decision and unfortunately we haven’t been able to do that.”
“Most of it was from last year. There were some altercations and some incidences of thefts of scarves and hats and things. A fair amount of complaints to the university from patrons of the event,” he added. “We haven’t had any security issues really in the three plus seasons we’ve played there, except last season at the NYCFC game.”
While Belson is a very small facility, other challenges have presented themselves with other potential venues often discussed by the public when talking about temporary stadium options.
“MCU [Park] is an issue with the field. There were complaints in the two games we played there with the different colored turfs with the brown baseball infield and the green outfield.”
Stover refers to the regular season match against Ottawa and the playoff semifinal against the Strikers held there in 2015.
Mitchell Field was also ruled out by the club.
“That field is totally unacceptable to play a professional soccer game on. The quality of the turf is an issue. And then when you add football lines, lacrosse lines, logos, everything makes it almost impossible from a competitive standpoint to think that that would be acceptable. And then the last thing is that facility is booked solid almost the entire year, so date availability is a big challenge.”
Citi Field was also brought up and promptly dismissed.
“Some people talk about going to Citi Field. There’s numerous scheduling challenges throughout the Open Cup tournament. But also, it’s cost-prohibitive. You saw last night, there were about 4000 people in Fordham.”
One of the biggest issues, however, are the rules of hosting an Open Cup match, which require the host to have a facility locked down well in advance of knowing who their opponent might be.
“The application process with US Soccer requires you to confirm dates well in advance, and 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, then we find ourselves in a situation like this.”
Which has brought the Cosmos back to Belson.
“Our venue for the application process through US Soccer has been Belson Stadium throughout and we’re confident that the stadium for the Revolution game will be adequate. We’ll see what happens if we advance on, what the best course of action will be for the next round should again we advance and depending on who we host. So, irregardless of how far we go through the tournament, Belson will need to be our home stadium.”
Belson’s official capacity is listed at 2,600 although it can accommodate up to 5,000. Which brings up the question of how long the Cosmos could continue to host there.
“We may find ourselves in a situation where it’s in the best interest of the tournament that hosting at Belson is not the right thing to do,” disclosed Stover. “I do have concerns about for example, say we hosted NYCFC this last game. I’m not sure that the layout of this venue would be appropriate to have two rival supporter groups in that facility. I think this upcoming game with the Revolution, there’s no concerns whatsoever.”
The loss of Shuart Stadium to host USOC matches is a blow. Still, the Cosmos may need to surrender hosting rights at some point.
“We will speak to our opponent if we advance, we will speak to US Soccer. There is the possibility we may have to relinquish the right to host if we think it’s in the best interest of the competition and public safety to do it elsewhere.”
It’s sound reasoning and it’d be foolish to think that beyond a point, the final matches of the USOC would consider Belson acceptable. Still, there could be an unpleasant choice in the future of the New York side that will be difficult for those faithful to the green and white to accept.
“There will come a time, whether it’s the demand of ticket sales or a public safety, where a very difficult decision may need to be made.”