MLS: The Retirement League
It’s nothing new that European legends look to the MLS to continue their career once their time across the pond has come to an end. We’ve seen it happen countless times, with David Beckham being one of the first notable players to do so. With his transfer to D.C. United now official, Wayne Rooney has become the latest star play to take his remaining talents to the MLS.
At 32, it’s safe to say that Rooney’s best days are behind him. It’s not strange to see a big name from Europe come to the MLS at the end of their career. The strange thing is that Rooney decided to join last place D.C. United. Yeah, LA Galaxy finished tied for last place in the league last season and Zlatan Ibrahimovic still signed there for this season, but LA is one of the most appealing cities to play in. While it doesn’t make sense for Rooney to join D.C., it’s pretty easy to understand why they would want the former Manchester United and England star: a brand new stadium opening on July 14th.
The soccer-specific stadium will have a capacity crowd of 20,000 people, and with the team struggling in the standings they could use the help of a familiar face to draw more fans to the games. But can Rooney be anything more than just a familiar face? The days of 20+ goal seasons are in the past, but he proved he can still be productive evident by his 10 goals last season. Combine his talent for finding the back of the net, mixed with the lower quality of opponent in the MLS and it seems like Rooney can find success again.
While this might be the right move for Rooney, it’s tough to tell if this is the right move for D.C. United and the MLS. It’s not a good look for the league that a player can fall out of favour in Europe, then immediately become the star on an MLS franchise. Don’t get me wrong, I like the MLS. But when a player’s retirement tour becomes the main attraction of the league, it’s tough to shake the idea that the MLS is still well below the quality of other popular leagues around the world.