Manchester United star Wayne Rooney will be getting his first taste of an MLS club on Wednesday night at Gillette Stadium when his team faces the New England Revolution (8 pm, ESPN, ESPN Deportes), but that didn’t stop him from making a bold prediction about the future of America’s top-flight league.
“I think the league is definitely on the rise and I’m sure in the next five, 10 years, it’ll be one of the major leagues in football, I think,” Rooney said in an exclusive interview with MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday.
And the England international forward backs up his claim, pointing to what he’s seen from the American players with whom he has crossed paths back home. All of them have deep connections with MLS.
“American players who have played in the Premier League have done very well,” he said. “Brian McBride, I’ve played with him at Everton. Joe-Max Moore when I was a young lad [at Everton]. Clint Dempsey has done really well. Brad Friedel has done incredible over the last 10 years.
“When you see the way they play and then you look at the MLS, it’s similar to the way they play. They work hard. They’re physical. They’ve got quality.”
And while American fans may be hard on US national team coach Bob Bradley and his squad, Rooney offers an outsider’s perspective, which sustains Bradley’s view that the USA are appreciated abroad — often more so than they are at home.
“The way the US played against us in the World Cup, they’re so committed,” Rooney said of the 1-1 draw between England and the USA in last year's World Cup. “And I think for any team to have players who are committed like that, it’s a great ability to have to be committed and work hard.”
It’s that American hardworking spirit that Rooney is counting on to help the Red Devils get in shape to win their 20th Premier League title.
“On this tour, it’s important for us to get the fitness working and be fit for that first game of the season,” he said. “And in three of the games [vs. New England, Seattle and Chicago] we know we’ll do that because teams in MLS are physical teams and work hard. And that will push us as well to get more work in the games.