Canadian soccer teams are always fun to watch. From Toronto FC being a bottom dweller and still finding a way to sign big money players, to FC Edmonton’s inability to do anything other than draw, fishy things happen when you combine Canadians and soccer. Now, it’s time to add another chapter to the Canadian soccer history book (authored by M. Night Shyamalan). In a bizarre event, NASL’s New York Cosmos have signed Jamaican prospect Andre Lewis, right after he was the seventh overall pick of the 2014 MLS SuperDraft. Multiple news outlets reported this, and soon after these reports were taking shape, @WhitecapsFC tweeted:
After this was tweeted, Goal.com’s Ives Galarcep confirmed that the Cosmos said they signed Lewis. Cosmos COO Erik Stover stated to Galarcep that the team had “agreed to a deal in principle with (Lewis)” and were “finalizing the terms of the developmental agreement with his club in Jamaica.” So, it appeared as if the Cosmos had Lewis in the bag.
But, as Lee Corso would say, not so fast my friend. In another Shyamalanic twist, at around 8 o’clock tonight Lewis tweeted:
@whitecapsFC I’m excited about my future at the whitecaps FC, looking forward to meeting all the supporters soon.
So, as it stands, barring any further twists and turns, the Vancouver Whitecaps have signed Andre Lewis. The MLS even published an article on their website after Lewis’ tweet that stated Lewis was with the Whitecaps. All is (relatively) well and good in Vancouver.
Now to the real story here: is this an example of the Cosmos challenging MLS teams in talent? While we will never know the extent of Lewis’ playing time with the Cosmos, it will be interesting to see how well Lewis will play for the Whitecaps reserves and if he does indeed make the move onto the Whitecaps roster. We all know that the Cosmos have more money than any NASL club, but does this move signal that they have the buying power to compete with MLS clubs for rising prospects? If Stover’s statement is true, which is safe to assume that it is, then it shows that the Cosmos are looking at the same talent that the MLS is willing to spend first round draft picks on. And while the MLS does not have a salary cap, it does have a precedent for rookie contracts- just above 35,000$. Most rookies are signed to this base minimum salary, and as a result rookies that perform well are purchased by other leagues or teams for much more money. In all likelihood, Lewis was signed to the Whitecaps with this 35,000$ contract, but was also “signed” with the Cosmos for more money.
While I can’t claim to understand the legal battle that has gone on between the Whitecaps and the Cosmos and why Lewis has ended up with the Whitecaps, I do know this: this whole situation is beneficial for the New York Cosmos. While they might not have been able to keep Lewis, they have definitely gotten the attention of the American soccer community in terms of just how much purchasing power this club really has. MLS teams certainly can’t like having a competitor in the second-tier league of American soccer when it comes to emerging talent, and NASL teams have to enjoy the taste of validity that may be coming to the league with a story such as this. It will only fuel those who argue that the NASL is closing the gap between the two leagues, and if NASL teams continue to battle for highly touted prospects, those people may just end up being right.
Update: MLS has released new information on the deal, stating essentially that if the Whitecaps want him, they will have him. This information comes from MLS vice president of player personnel Lino DiCuollo, who stated,
“MLS has an agreement with Lewis and the Cosmos for him to join MLS and Vancouver, provided certain conditions are met. In the event the Whitecaps want to retain the player, as of the roster compliance date (March 1), then he will be with them on a loan or after a transfer from the Cosmos.”
So it appears as if Lewis is indeed signed with the Cosmos right now, but he may be transferred or loaned to Vancouver down the road.