Sweeper and midfielder who played five seasons for the New York Cosmos in the 1970s and ’80s and, since he still was in his playing prime during his Cosmos years, probably ranks as the NASL’s finest player.
Beckenbauer is generally regarded as having been the greatest defensive player in soccer history. In the course of his career in the top ranks in West Germany, he moved from midfield, which he played in the 1966 World Cup, to defender, which he played in captaining West Germany to victory in the 1974 World Cup. Again in the NASL, he played both of those positions. His greatest fame in the sport may have come from the role he played in creating the position of offensive sweeper, in which he played in front of the backline as the primary originator of his team’s attacks.
Beckenbauer joined the Cosmos from Bayern Munich in 1977, a year after winning the European player of the year award for a second time, and led the Cosmos to NASL championships in 1977, 1978 and 1980. He returned to Germany after the 1980 NASL season, but then played a final season with the Cosmos in 1983. He was a first-team all-star in each of his five NASL seasons and the league’s most valuable player in 1977. He scored 23 goals and assisted on 53 others during those seasons, high totals for a defender. Possibly Beckenbauer’s greatest NASL season was 1978, when he played 33 games and scored 10 goals. That also was the season when he declined, somewhat controversially, to play for West Germany as it defended its World Cup title.
Beckenbauer’s first season with the Cosmos was Pele’s last, and was the year that the Cosmos attendances really began to soar. They stayed high through the next several seasons as Beckenbauer, Giorgio Chinaglia, Carlos Alberto and Vladislav Bogicevic led the team to continued success.
Beckenbauer became coach of West Germany just a year after retiring following the 1983 season, and in 1990 he became the fist man ever to have both captained and coached World Cup-winning teams.
Inducted in 1998.