With the growth of soccer over the last 40 years, it is hard to think back when it was barely on the sports landscape in the United States. But that was the case in 1975 until this day in soccer history when Pele signed with the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League (NASL).
Pele, the greatest soccer player of his generation and of all-time, brought immediate exposure to the club and the game in the U.S. The press conference announcing his arrival was made a week later at the trendy 21 Club in Manhattan.
“Then came back to New York and had the press conference on a Tuesday [June 10],” Clive Toye the Cosmos general manager at the time told The Guardian. “Suddenly we were a well-known club.”
Toye had been pursuing The Black Pearl since 1971. The English-born Toye understood the importance of bringing the best to play in the U.S. if the game was ever to take off (that or the U.S. hosting a FIFA World Cup). He picked the club’s team colors, yellow, green, and blue, as they were the colors the Brazilian national team wore as part of the plan to one-day sign Pele.
When Pele’s club Santos visited the Big Apple to play Deportivo Cali at Yankee Stadium in 1971, Toye was in the House that Ruth Built for the match and not so quietly working to sell Pele on a move to the Cosmos.
“We had retired the No10 until he wore it,” Toye went on to tell The Guardian. “Before the kickoff, I went on the field and got on the microphone and made the announcement that was the Cosmos shirt for him to wear one day and we hoped it would happen one day. So, I gave him the No10 Cosmos shirt, having already taken the Cosmos colors, which was Brazil’s colors. I told him we had picked the colors to make him comfortable when he wore the shirt.”
The rest is history.
The Cosmos continue to make history. The club finally achieved a dream of Toye’s in 2015 when they traveled to Cuba and played the Cuban National Team. The Cosmos won the match 4-1. Toye tried to arrange a similar tour in the 1977 only to see if fall through for the Cosmos. The Chicago Sting made the trip 1-year later when Toye was their GM.
Also on this day in soccer history, England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson used an unprecedented 10 substitutes in the Three Lions friendly with Serbia & Montenegro in 2003.
1956 – George Burley, Scottish football player and manager
1977 – Cris, Brazilian footballer