Pele’s Contributions Gave Soccer a Foothold


Coming to America, Pele said he wanted to make pro soccer a major sport here.

More than 20 years later, Major League Soccer is making progress, and although the league that brought Pele here is long gone, the fans who saw him play will never forget the brilliant Brazilian who for three years put soccer on Page 1 in the United States.

When the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League signed him to a $7-million contract in 1975, he became one of the world’s highest-paid athletes.

And 22 years ago today, in Portland, Ore., U.S. soccer fans said goodbye.

When the Cosmos defeated the Seattle Sounders, 2-1, it was Pele’s final league game. Although he didn’t score, a sellout crowd of 35,548 accorded him a rousing farewell.


He was given a standing ovation when he appeared on the field for warmups, when he was introduced and when he walked off for the final time.

There would be one more game for Pele, an exhibition at Giants Stadium the next October between the Cosmos and his old Brazilian Santos club. Attendance was estimated at 76,000.

Also on this date: On the same day, the Dodgers’ Steve Garvey broke out of a monthlong slump with a five-for-five game against St. Louis, rapping two home runs--one a grand slam--and three doubles in an 11-0 victory. . . . In 1955, the Los Angeles Rams beat the New York Giants, 23-17, in the NFL’s first sudden-death game. It was an exhibition at Portland. . . . In 1922, a U.S. team defeated England, 8-4, to win the first Walker Cup golf match.