The king is not quite ready to give up the throne.
Pele, who was majestically ruled the world of soccer for more than 20 years, scored two goals Wednesday night in a sparkling performance that carried the Cosmos to a 3-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the opening round of the North American Soccer League Playoffs.
Had the Cosmos lost, it would have been the final NASL game for Pele, 36, the undisputed king of soccer, who has scored more than 1,250 goals in a span of 22 years of professional play.
The 57,828 fans, a NASL playoff record, who turned out at Giants Stadium on a hot and rainy night were not ready to witness the end of Pele's glorious reign.
At 13:16 of the second half they no longer had reason for concern. Pele took a pass from Steve Hunt, drove down the middle and fired a shot into the lower right-hand corner of the net past Tampa Bay goalie Paul Hammong.
"After that first goal the game was over," said goalie Shep Messing, who made 12 saves in recording the shutout. "Pele made it, and it was beautiful."
The Cosmos, who advance to the quarterfinals, a two-game series with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers for the Eastern Division championship, failed on numerous scoring opportunities in the first half.
But the second half was a more wide open game with the Cosmos flanking their foreards and clearing the middle.
Nearly 12 minutes after Pele's goal, Giorgio Chinaglia let fly with a turning over-the-head kick set up by Hunt and Tony Field.
The Cosmos were backed by the outstanding defensive jobs of Carlos Alberto, Franz Beckenbauer and Terry Garbett. Bobby Smith was particularly effective in shutting off Tampa Bay's high-scoring Derek Smethurst.
With nine seconds to go, Pele gave the crowd one final delight when he dribbled in close, feinted and popped in the second goal.