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Cantona bids to rebuild Cosmos' legacy on return to game

Eric Cantona will front an English-inspired attempt to win a £250m battle to restore professional football to the heart of America's biggest city when he returns to the game as director of soccer at the New York Cosmos.

The announcement of Cantona's return to football for the first time since he walked away from Manchester United in 1997 has delivered the global publicity desired by Cosmos chairman Paul Kemsley, the former Tottenham vice-chairman, and his executive team of former Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry and Terry Byrne, David Beckham's former personal manager.

Kemsley is understood to be working with Inner Circle, the sports specialist investment bank, in his attempt to relaunch the Cosmos. But securing the licence for MLS membership is likely to prove costly and involve a wait of two years.

Stiff competition from the New York Mets baseball team, who are also pursuing the MLS licence, and a fee approaching £47m to secure the franchise are obstacles to overcome.

Then there is the issue of building a stadium, with sites being considered in Queens and Long Island, which is anticipated to cost around £156m.

But with the 16-team MLS due to expand with the arrival of Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps this year, plus the introduction of Montreal Impact in 2012, plans by the league to hand the 20th licence to a New York franchise are well advanced.

"The focus is firmly on New York for the 20th MLS team," said Dan Courtemanche, the MLS senior vice-president. "We've had very productive meetings and, with Paul Kemsley and Rick Parry, they are an impressive group. They are very committed and are keen to develop the legacy of the Cosmos brand."

Beckham's four-year stint with the LA Galaxy has taken the game to a new awareness level in the US, but despite New York's 13 million population, there are 10 sports franchises competing for a slice of the action.

New York Red Bulls, based in New Jersey, are wary of a second football team on the scene, but Courtemanche insists the demand is there. "New York is ready for a second team and Queens, where the Cosmos could be based, is home to people from Ecuador, Brazil, Mexico and many other nationalities. The appetite is there," he said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent