40 Years Ago – Pele Brought Soccer to the U.S.

40 Years Ago – Pele Brought Soccer to the U.S.

Forty years ago this week, the New York Cosmos announced they had lured Brazilian soccer star Pele out of semi-retirement and signed him to a $2.8-million, three-year contract.  Pele’s impact was immediate, as his first game was televised on national television.

The Cosmos would move from 22,000-seat Downing Stadium on Randall’s Island to Yankee Stadium in 1976 and then Giant Stadium in 1977.  Attendance for the Cosmos jumped from 3,578 in 1974 to 47,856 in 1978 and 7,841 to 13,006 for the league.

He would be league MVP in 1976 and led the Cosmos to the Championship in 1977.

He played one last game for the Cosmos that year, a friendly against his old Brazilian Club Santos.  Playing the first half for the Cosmos, then switching to Santos for the second half.  The game was marred by a heavy downpour, which led a Brazilian paper to note, “Even the Sky Was Crying.”

Pele’s move led other major international stars to play in America including Franz Beckenbauer, George Best, Giorgio Chinaglia and  Eusebio

Pele had a major impact on the growth of soccer in the U.S..  In 1967 there were 100,000 people playing soccer in the US; by 1984, that number had grown to over 4 million.

As a sign of Pele’s significance is that, when I came to Los Angeles during the 1994 World Cup, the Ritz Carlton told me they could not accommodate me during the weekend of the World Cup Finals since they had “Pele, the Vice President and Heads of State” (in that order) staying that weekend.

USA Stats


  • 9 Games
    5 Goals, 4 Assists


  • 22 Games
    13 Goals, 18 Assists
  • Playoffs (2 Games)
    2 Goals, 1 Assist


  • 25 Games
    13 Goals, 3 Assists
  • Playoffs (6 Games)
    4 Goals, 4 Assists


2 thoughts on “40 Years Ago – Pele Brought Soccer to the U.S.

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