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The Sideline Observer

Sports and Culture Commentary

The Impact of Big Name Players Coming to the MLS

With Wayne Rooney’s transfer to D.C. United “on a 2 1/2-year guaranteed contract worth about $13 million,” another superstar soccer player has decided to head over to the MLS to finish off their career. Rooney is the newest member of a selected group of individuals who have spearheaded their way to the U.S. Other superstar names on the list include David Beckham, Thierry Henry, Steven Gerrard, Kaká, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard, Bastian Schweinsteiger, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

What has this influx of players done to the league?

The Positives

1.They help build a fanbase and grow support for the club

Adding big name players to an MLS roster has seemed to skyrocket the popularity of the sport in that region, especially in the D.C. area. Since the arrival of Wayne Rooney, the amount of buzz around D.C. United is unparalleled in recent memory. While the new Audi Stadium may have something to do with that, Wayne’s presence has definitely stirred up the pot for D.C. United. Similarly, LA Galaxy’s new superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been taking over headlines. Zlatan’s prolific scoring ability has “sparked discussion among soccer fans everywhere.”

2. They bring experience and leadership to younger MLS and homegrown players

Most of the big name players have competed at the top level and top leagues for most of their careers for years. Take David Villa and Schweinsteiger for example: they made transitions to the MLS and immediately named captains, providing much needed leadership and advice to a younger MLS players.

Rooney has done the same since his arrival. In a Washington Post article, D.C. United Defender Steven Birnbaum said “you don’t know what to expect when a guy like him arrives, but when he first got here, he went around the locker room and had conversations with everyone.” During D.C. United’s last game against Atlanta United — who top the league — Rooney displayed his ability to play off his teammates, and impressively come up big with a goal and two assists to Luciano Acosta

The Negatives

1. MLS continues its reputations as a “retirement league”

When big name players come to the MLS, they often can washed up legends and are nearing the ends of careers. You can look at Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, both of whom had very short and uneventful stints in the MLS before retiring

2. They don’t always live up to the hype

Pirlo and Gerrard are two stars who barley left an impact on their respective teams. In 60 games with New York City, Pirlo only provided one goal off a set piece, and while Gerrard scored five goals in his first season, he wasn’t nearly the playmaker he was during his Liverpool days.

P.S. When was the last time you heard about Schweinsteiger or Ashley Cole doing anything special in the MLS?

It’s hard to label the influence of these big name players as they all live out vastly different careers and legacies in the MLS compared to their European stints. However, having these big name players playing week in and out is exciting for a growing soccer culture in the U.S.

-Oliver

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