Synopsis by Mark Deming
While professional soccer is still struggling to find a firm foothold in the United States, in the 1970s the North American Soccer League marked the brave first attempt to introduce the game to American sports fans. While most teams had only limited success at best, one did manage to break through to genuine mainstream popularity -- the New York Cosmos. The brainchild of Steve Ross (a passionate soccer fan who was also a major executive at Warner Communications) and Ahmet Ertegun and Nesuhi Ertegun (the founders of Atlantic Records), the Cosmos got off to a rocky start in 1971 (no one was especially happy with the playing field at Randall's Island, and some rowdy fans were known to throw broken glass onto the grass), but things changed in 1975 when the world's most celebrated soccer star, the Brazilian champion Pele, signed with the Cosmos for a five-million-dollar payday. With the arrival of Pele, the Cosmos became a hit with both fans and the media, and the players became the toast of the town, earning their own private table at Studio 54. A number of other international soccer stars were soon lured to the Cosmos, including Franz Beckenbauer, Rodney Marsh, and Carlos Alberto, but with the turn of the decade, the team began losing favor with fans and folded in 1985. Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos is a documentary by Paul Crowder and John Dower that looks at the team's remarkable history and includes interviews with many of the Cosmos' star players (with the notable exception of Pele, who declined to participate).