New York Cosmos agree to jersey deal with Emirates Airline

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Soccer great and Cosmos honorary president Pele was on hand for the partnership announcement.

Soccer great and Cosmos honorary president Pele was on hand for the partnership announcement.

NEW YORK (AP) -- It remains to be seen whether the revived New York Cosmos will fly, but they have a jersey sponsorship contract with Emirates Airline.

With Pele looking on, the revived football team announced the deal with Emirates as it prepares to enter the second-tier North American Soccer League this summer.

"I played 25 years in Santos. We won a lot of tournaments. The World Cup I scored a lot of goals,'' Pele said. "It's amazing. I arrive in China, I arrive in Africa, they say, `Listen, what happened to New York Cosmos?'''

The 72-year-old Brazilian great, the Cosmos' honorary president, played for Santos from 1956-74 and helped his country win three World Cup titles. The Cosmos became a major attraction when he played for them from 1975-77.

The relaunched team, run by CEO Seamus O'Brien, starts play at Shuart Stadium in Hempstead on Long Island on Aug. 3 against Fort Lauderdale. The Cosmos hope to build a $400 million, 25,000-seat stadium at Belmont Park racetrack.

They enter a market that already has the Major League Soccer's New York Red Bulls, who play in Harrison, New Jersey, and New York City FC, which is co-owned by Manchester City and the New York Yankees and will start playing in the MLS play in 2015 at a site to be determined.

"We've got a few years to get our ship up and running,'' O'Brien said. "We're not scared of competition. I think in any sport and walk of life that's a good thing. And I think the soccer economy of this city is more than large enough to deal with three teams.''

"I think this will be the biggest soccer market in the world in my lifetime,'' said O'Brien, who turns 49 next week.

Featuring a squad that also included Franz Beckenbauer and Giorgio Chinaglia, the Cosmos played in the old NASL from 1971-84 and folded in 1985.

Former MLS players Hunter Freeman and Joseph Nane are among the 15 players on the current Cosmos, who lack any players of note. The team appears to be interested in signing Villarreal's Marcos Senna, a former Spain midfielder who turns 37 next month.

"When we're ready to say things, we'll say,'' Cosmos coach Giovanni Savarese said.

Pele arrived a half-hour late for the news conference at a Manhattan hotel. The event was hosted by former Cosmos goalkeeper Shep Messing and attended by former Cosmos players Hubert Birkenmeier, Andranik Eskandarian and Boris Bandov along with Clive Toye, the team's general manager during its heyday.

U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati, who joined FIFA's executive committee last week, watched from a front-row seat. There was a poster of Beckenbauer with a headline, "Don't Call It A Comeback.''

The Cosmos will be the eighth team in the NASL, which is averaging 4,590 fans per game this season. O'Brien said he hopes the Cosmos average 5,000 to 10,000.

Emirates Air also is the jersey sponsor of Arsenal, AC Milan, Hamburg, Paris Saint-Germain and, starting next season, Real Madrid.