The Cosmos are known throughout the North American Soccer League as "the best team money can buy."
With such high-salaried world-acclaimed stars as Franz (The Keiser) Bechenbauer, Giorgio Chinaglia. Vladislav Bogicevic and Carlos Alberto, the defending Soccer Bowl champion are overwhelming favorites to win the title in '78 and for many years to come.
The Cosmos, who prefer not be called by their origial surtitle of New york since moving from their orginal home base of Shea Stadium to Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., two years ago, have written just about every mark in the NASL record book.
"They have some of the best players in the world," said Washington Diplomat coach Gordon Bradley, who was instrumental in building the Cosmos.
Bradley coached New York 6 1/2 years and his part in signing the Brazilian Black Pearl, Pele, four years ago opened the floodgates for other highly regarded foreign stars to leave their native lands for the dollars and neon lights of the Big Apple. Unfortunately for the rest of the NASL, only The Cosmos could affort to sign the likes of Chinaglia, Beckenbauer and Stevie Hunt.
Already boasting a payroll that George Allen would be proud of, the Cosmos sent shivers throughout the league when they recently announced they are coveting and may be close to signing the fabulous Dutch star Johan Cruyff.
"I would love to play with Cruyff," said Werner Roth, Cosmos captain and defender. "I think he would add a lot to our team."
The Cosmos, who play the Diplomats at RFK Stadium tomorrow night at 8 o'clock already have won the title in the Eastern Division of the National Conference. Their record of 235 and point total of 201 are league marks.
Led by the flamboyant Italan striker Chinaglia, The Cosmos have racked up 82 goals, bettering the old league mark by 11, with two games yet to play.
Their goal differential - goals scored minus goals allowed 0 goals allowed (33) - is greater than the number of goals scored by all but nine of the other 23 teams in the NASL.
"Overall, we're even stronger without Pele in there," said Roth."We went to him the three years he played because he was Pele. Now, everyone will take the responsibility of scoring and seeing to it the team plays well.
"We play even better as a unit. We have much better players at each position. No weaknesses."
While The Cosmos virtually have had their way with most of the teams in the league, Roth, for one, insists the other teams are not that far behind in ability.
"Once we had the big gaps between our own players. Now that's closing," said Roth, a native American who has played more games with the Cosmos lifetime than any other player. "Elsewhere around the league, the gap's closing. We can be eaten."
The Cosmos have beefed up the league attendance figures, both at Giants Stadium and on the road. The club averages 47,856 at home and 23,055 on the road.
"Teams really get up for us and play hard. And," Roth, "if we're not mentally ready to play . . ."
Two of The Cosmos' losses were by 1-0 scores and another occurred in a shootout in Portland, New England pulled the stunt twice and was the last team to defeat The Cosmos. The offensive-minded Cosmos have won their last five games.
"We want to close out our season with two victories. It's important we go into the playoffs on a winning note," said Roth. "But there's no pressure on us to win whatsoever."