The legendary New York soccer team, the New York Cosmos, most famous as the team that “brought Pelé to America,” will be the subject of a new scripted TV series. The press release states that the focus of the proposed series will be on the meteoric rise of the club in the 1970s, through the maneuvering of former owner and Chairman of Warner Communications Steve Ross. Ross’ son Mark Ross is shepherding the project, along with former Cosmos captain Werner Roth, who is serving as acting executive producer.
Four years ago, there was talk of a feature film based on the New York Cosmos story, with Caroline Rowland, director of the official London 2012 Olympics film “First,” in talks to direct at the time. But nothing seems to have come of that. So it could be that what was initially to be a feature film is now becoming a TV series.
The Cosmos have already been the subject of one successful documentary, “Once In A Lifetime” (2006), which looked at the team’s rise and fall in the 1970s and 1980s.
It’ll be impossible to make a film about the NY Cosmos without Brazilian soccer superstar Pelé, who was acquired by the team during the 1975 season, in a deal that was seen as a major coup for the ball club, signing a player whose worldwide popularity was compared to that of the Pope’s. And they paid well for him – a salary of $1.4 million per year, which was certainly a large payout for any athlete at the time (in today’s dollars, that would be about the equivalent of over $6 million a year).
His arrival turned the Cosmos from a motley crew of semi-professionals and students into a huge commercial enterprise. Pelé’s debut game with the Cosmos was reportedly broadcast in 22 countries and covered by more than 300 journalists from all over the world.
And his arrival, which was followed by other European and South American international players, raised attendance significantly, as the team’s competitive performance improved.
Pelé played his last professional match on October 1, 1977, in front of a capacity crowd at Giants Stadium. Of course the Cosmos won the game, a championship year for the team.
And after he retired, there was a noticeably decline of interest in the Cosmos, as well as the overall soccer league; and it was said that, much of the progress that American soccer had made during his stay was lost, especially with no star at the same level to replace him as the league’s headline act.
I should note that there’s a Pelé biopic coming to theaters later this year from Ron Howard’s and Brian Grazer’s Imagine Entertainment, based on a recommendation by Cosmos chairman Paul Kemsley, who owns the life story rights to Pelé.
Jeff and Michael Zimbalist penned the screenplay, and directed the film as well, which is more of a coming-of-age story that will trace Pele’s childhood until he won his first World Cup in Sweden at the age of 17.
No other details are available at this time about the proposed TV series.