Advancement of American Football as Pele arrives at NASL, New York Cosmos to thank

The world of football lost a legend on Thursday with Pelé’s death at 82. The king of Brazilian football, Pelé amassed a whole list of trophies winning the World Cup three times, the Intercontinental Cup twice, the Copa Libertadores twice and the Brasileiro six times, but he also topped things off with a NASL title with the New York Cosmos. in 1977. His impact on American football is unparalleled.

Founded in 1968, the North American Soccer League was one of the best-known soccer leagues in America, operating as a premier league league that preceded Major League Soccer. And within the NASL, the Cosmos were the creme de la creme, known the world over and having enough circulation for players like Franz Beckenbauer, Giorgio Chinaglia and the legend, Pelé.

Joining Cosmos from Santos in June 1975, Pele was a surprising capture for a team of their size at the time. Prior to the Brazilian’s arrival, the Cosmos were a journeyman team, but Pele showed the team were serious in an ambitious and life-changing move. His three-year contract with the Cosmos for $2.8 million made Pelé the highest-paid athlete in the world at the time. The Cosmos helped him secure other contracts to ensure he paid as little tax as possible, one such contract saw him listed as a recording artist for Atlantic Records during his time at the club, with Brazilian musician Sergio Mendes.

Pele’s impact was immediate as he was 34 at the time and hadn’t played competitive football for eight months before joining Cosmos. Pelé made his debut for the team on June 15, 1975, scoring a goal and assisting in a tie against the Dallas Tornado. This game was watched by 10 million people on CBS, which was at the time a record US television audience for football, as the king was attracting attention from all over. Pele would score five goals and assist four more in just nine matches, but he was just getting started.

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Chinaglia joined Pelé the following season and the magic ensued. Pele scored 13 goals and 18 assists in his second season with the club while winning the NASL MVP award. The following season, he would lead the Cosmos to the 1977 Soccer Bowl title, which was the pinnacle of American football at the time. Attendance at the club would triple during his time there with Pelé playing outside a sold-out Giants stadium against Santos.

Over 77,000 fans attended the match and Pele ensured they were treated to a spectacle scoring a goal in a 2-1 win over his former club. Pele’s arrival and impact showed that football could succeed in America and laid the foundation for the record-breaking 1994 World Cup in the United States.

A legend on and off the field, Pele’s impact on American football will not be forgotten, as will his impact on the world game. The only player to have won three World Cups and scored 1,281 career goals (including friendlies), Pele’s legacy is untouchable and without him there is probably no 2026 World Cup to look forward to in America , not to mention everything that came before.

Author: niso

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