Brazilian legend Pele has proclaimed that the standard of football in the United States is at the same level as the European game.

The three-time World Cup winner came to the North American Soccer League in 1975, at a time when the sport was not in the public interest - not helped by the nation's failure to appear at any major tournament for 25 years.

Now, Major League Soccer averages crowds of over 18,000 fans per game, hosts star names such as Thierry Henry, Jermain Defoe and Landon Donovan, and the national team have qualified for the last seven World Cups and won five Gold Cups.

These significant changes haven't gone unnoticed by one of the greatest players ever to play the game.

Speaking to local media at a Hublot event in Miami, Brazil's record all-time goalscorer discussed David Beckham's plans to bring professional football back to the city.

"Everybody knows that I came here with the New York Cosmos to promote soccer. Now you have a player like Beckham, and it's fantastic that he's doing that too," enthused the 73-year-old.

And Pele believes that it's not just the popularity of the sport that is rising, but also the quality.

He continued: "Today, soccer in the United States is at the same level as in Europe. At the 2002 World Cup, the US national team almost qualified for the semi-finals."

The former Santos forward also praised the standard of youth football in the States, and expressed his belief that it is of an even higher standard than in his home continent of South America.

"Another thing that is important is the base. It is much better organised here than in Brazil, or maybe all of South America - from eight to 20-years-old."

Former England captain Beckham's Miami franchise are yet to announce when they will join the MLS, and are currently experiencing problems in locating a potential site for the club's stadium.


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Topics:
#MLS
#David Beckham
#Football
#Pele