Pele thinks that American fans were misled about David Beckham's merit in Major League Soccer.
Amid great fanfare, the former England captain was unveiled by the Los Angeles Galaxy in July, but his greatest impact has been on ticket sales and merchandise.
"They announced him as a scorer of goals," Pele told The Associated Press. "He isn't a goal scorer - that was a mistake."
In five league matches, Beckham scored one goal - from a trademark free kick - before being ruled out with a knee injury for seven weeks.
Pele, a three-time World Cup-winning Brazil striker, generated huge publicity for the North America Soccer League when he made his debut for the New York Cosmos in 1975.
More than 75,000 New York fans saw his final match two years later, when he played the first half with the Cosmos and the second half with his former Brazilian team, Santos.
But soccer then struggled to compete with the established American sports or generate publicity - until Beckham's arrival.
Pele believes MLS players' salaries need to be raised to the level of American football or baseball players. He also wants the lifting of restrictions on player movements, designed to stop wealthy teams amassing the best players.
"This was one of the mistakes - they have to give freedom to the owners of the teams to buy the players and (chose) which players they want to put (out)," Pele told The AP. "The big mistake in the league now is to control the level of the teams. If they opened this up, it would be much better."