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How Pelé perpetually raised popularity of soccer in United States

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The GOAT is gone. Pelé died Thursday at 82 in his native Brazil.

But not before becoming the best soccer player who ever lived, and arguably the best athlete in history. And one who left an enduring impact not only on world sport, but on Recent York City’s sportscape as well.

Pelé managed staggering feats like winning three World Cup titles, scoring greater than 600 goals for his club team, Santos, and helping to stop a Nigerian civil war together with his mere presence. Yet probably the most unbelievable could have been turning the Recent York Cosmos right into a worldwide phenomenon when he starred for them from 1975-77.

“Today, for those who are all around the world … every place on the planet you go, they are saying ‘Pelé, when are the Recent York Cosmos coming back?’ Sometimes I get a little bit upset. I played 25 years in Santos, and no person asks me,’’ Pelé said in 2013. “But I’m pleased with that, because we made football — soccer — within the U.S. well-known.”

The NASL club made Pelé the highest-paid athlete on the planet (a three-year, $7 million deal, in line with a 1975 article within the Recent York Times announcing the signing), but it surely was well price every penny. Forget the goals or assists, or the striker hoisting the 1976 NASL MVP or carrying them to the 1977 Soccer Bowl title. He lifted the Cosmos to worldwide fame.

The Cosmos played before sparse crowds on Randall’s Island the 12 months before Pelé arrived, moving to Yankee Stadium for the 1976 season and the brand new Giants Stadium in 1977 — often approaching capability crowds.

Ten million people watched Pelé’s Cosmos debut on CBS, a record U.S. audience for soccer. Their gate tripled in his first half-season, and by August of his last season they’d set a North American attendance record of 77,691.

The Cosmos attracted other stars on the sphere similar to fellow Brazilian World Cup winner Carlos Alberto, West German captain Frank Beckenbauer and Italian Giorgio Chinaglia. And stars within the stadium’s stands like Robert Redford, Mick Jagger and Andy Warhol — and sometimes in Studio 54, with the glitterati.

“I didn’t imagine how big the Cosmos were at the moment,” Pelé said years ago. “I’m very completely happy to see football in the US at the identical level as the remaining of the world because I began it here.”

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