The gala banquet, hosted by Major League Soccer and the US Soccer Foundation, was a fund-raiser to build a football pitch in Harlem.
Beckham said he spent the day in Harlem and saw how excited the children were about playing football.
He said: "The kids' faces change when they run onto the field and when they got a soccer ball, so to have that passion that they showed just within two hours of being down there, it does change people's lives."
Beckham said he felt humbled to present the award to Pele.
The 67-year-old helped Brazil win three World Cups and then joined the North American Soccer League's New York Cosmos in 1975.
During Pele's acceptance speech he said: "I congratulate all of you who made this possible because we are going to have a built place here and continue to give to the kids the opportunity to come from the street, to stay out from the drugs, and to be in the sport.
That's my role here. I thank God. I thank God with love, love and love."