It’s highly unlikely that the endeavors this World Cup by Messrs. Donovan, Dempsey and Howard will propel soccer into the top three most popular American sports. But that’s not to say that there isn’t a precedent for trying to elevate the beautiful game in a land that associates football with 1st and 10. In the 1970s, the New York Cosmos was one of the star draws in American sports, as the nascent North American Soccer League strove to become more than a mere novelty. And the Cosmos loaded its side with all-stars such as the Brazilians Pelé and Carlos Alberto, Italian striker Giorgio Chinaglia and Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer, which helped to get as many as 75,000 fans through the gates at the Meadowlands stadium.
This diverting documentary by John Dower and Paul Crowder ultimately illustrates how the league’s overexpansion, wasteful spending and inability to entice TV viewers led to its eventual failure. And it shall always be intertwined with New York City itself, as the city’s other story lines of the time — the 1977 hunt for the serial killer Son of Sam, a massive blackout and the New York Yankees on the march to their first World Series in 15 years — all resonate. But the real star is the music of the era, with the film’s exemplary soundtrack quite possibly one of the finest ever committed to celluloid.
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