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The New York Cosmos just got closer to joining MLS (perhaps)

Eric Cantona, Pele

Soccer legends, New York Cosmos’ Director of Soccer Eric Cantona, right, and Honorary President Pele, left, pose with the signed copy of the signature sheet during the announcement of the New York Cosmos Opus in London, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2011. The New York Cosmos Opus is the definitive publication on one of the world’s most glamorous soccer franchises. New York Cosmos is due to play Manchester United in a Paul Scholes testimonial match at Old Trafford on Friday, the first U.S. team to play at the stadium. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)


News broke Thursday afternoon that Nike was selling Umbro, which got me wondering if perhaps the New York Cosmos moved a little bit closer to joining Major League Soccer.

Hear me out:

1) Whatever you think about the Cosmos management (and there’s plenty to say), they are almost certainly the single biggest club soccer team brand in the United States and definitely the one with the most history and fame. MLS is interested in getting them into the league, and they want to join. The union makes sense for both sides, assuming the details could be overcome.

2) Problem: Those details. There are many problems, but one that no one ever talked about was that MLS is an adidas league, while the Cosmos are an Umbro brand, which, until today, was owned by Nike. CONFLICT.

Nike would not hand over the biggest brand in American soccer to a rival apparel company, and you have to think MLS wouldn’t let the Cosmos play in Umbro gear. There might have been a workaround, but it would be a long, tedious, difficult negotiation between two massive global brands and one growing league. It’s tough to see anyone caving.

3) Now, however, Umbro is on its own. They no longer have the support of Nike’s bagillion (approx.) dollar budget. Reading between the lines, Umbro is not doing so hot. If there was ever a time to make some type of deal between adidas, MLS and Umbro regarding the Cosmos, it’s probably now or in the near future.

The Cosmos won’t be joining MLS tomorrow. But I think it’s fair to say the divestment by Nike made it at least a bit more possible.