NEW YORK (AP) — Clive Toye traveled to Jamaica, and in January 1971, before a friendly match against the Reggae Boys, he unannounced the hotel where Brazilian club Santos was staying. Pele was sitting by the pool and the general manager of the New York Cosmos launched his call for a cold that changed the history of US sports.

“You can go to Juventus, you can go to Real Madrid, you can win a championship. But so will everyone else,” the 90-year-old recalled telling Pele.

After dozens of meetings over four years, Pele agreed to sign with Cosmos in June 1975. Pele’s two-and-a-half seasons in New York put him on the road to US football, where he won the World Cup in 1994, and two years later, started his football in the Major Leagues.

MLS Commissioner Don Gerber said Thursday night after Pele died at the age of 82, “There are probably two athletes in our lifetime who have transcended their sport and transcended the sport as a whole. One. One was Muhammad Ali and the other was Pele.”

In 1974, the Cosmos averaged 3,578 fans, but that number nearly tripled to 10,450 the following year, with people flocking to either side of Triborough Bridge Approach to watch the game at Downing Stadium on Randall’s Island. We were in line.

In 1976, Pele’s final season Cosmos averaged 18,227 at Yankee Stadium and 34,142 at Giants Stadium in New Jersey the following year. It averaged over 40,000 in two years and the league collapsed after the 1984 season.

From the first meeting in Kingston, where Toye brought in U.S. Soccer’s Kurt Lam for support, Toye made several trips to Brazil, eventually persuading Pelé to agree during a meeting in Brussels. did. A formal offer was made in Rome a few days later.

Pele signed the deal in Bermuda for tax reasons, which Toye called a $2.7 million three-year deal, and the Brazilian said at a press conference at ’21,’ a haunt of New York movers and shakers. Was introduced.

When Pele led Brazil to its third and final World Cup title in 1970, cable TV in arenas like Madison Square Garden was the primary way to watch tournaments with English commentary in the United States. Toye and North American Soccer League commissioner Phil Woosnam had the league buy the US rights for that year for $15,000, but television agreeing to broadcast he could not find a network.

“There were still people, and when I said soccer, they said, ‘What’s soccer?'” Toyey said from his home in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. “Oh, what’s a World Cup?” I couldn’t bloody switch to any channel for this last World Cup without seeing anything about it.”

Pele joined the Cosmos at the age of 34 and has scored 37 goals in 64 regular and post-season appearances. He has agreed to countless interviews and promotional appearances as part of his mission to bring football into the mainstream.

Alan Rosenberg, organizer of the 1994 World Cup and former president of the United States Soccer Federation, said, “Cosmos was the spark that set football in our country on fire. He left the Plaza Hotel with Pele and headed for Central Park. I have vivid memories of jaywalking through traffic to

“A taxi stopped screaming. They started shouting ‘Pele! Pele! It was as if the Red Sea parted,” Lautenberg said.

Pele played for Santos from 1956 to 1974 and for Brazil from 1957 to 1971, largely bypassing the American fan base that adhered to Major League Baseball, the NFL, the NBA, college football and college basketball. made a name for themselves in sports.

“The NASL set the stage for American football today, not just from a grassroots perspective, but from a professional level perspective,” Garber said. It’s important, we’re going to make it bigger than anyone ever dreamed of, and all of us in the sport today, whether we’re game enthusiasts, athletes or managers, want Pele to come to the United States. If we hadn’t decided, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”

Sunil Gulati, another former USSF president and member of FIFA’s ruling council, first met Pele when he signed autographs at Dillon Stadium in Hartford, where the Cosmos played the Connecticut Bicentennials.

Nearly 30 years later, Gulati accompanied Colombian female All-American soccer player Sophie Reiser to the Hofstra suite for an autograph.

“Pele, one more, please?” Gulati said. “He turned to me and smiled and said, ‘He always has another one.’ It was really great. He did it all with a smile.”


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