- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 10, 2018

British superstar Wayne Rooney will likely be playing in the District later this season — a blockbuster move for D.C. United and Major League Soccer as a whole.

The 32-year-old Rooney — one of the top English players over the last two decades — agreed to a deal in principle Thursday for $16.2 million to join D.C. United. The deal, according to Sky Sports, runs through 2020.

The contract is not official yet, but Sky Sports reported “it would take a significant change of heart by Rooney and his family to stop the transfer going ahead.”

If signed, Rooney can’t join the club until July 10 — when MLS’ transfer window opens for international players.

For years, Rooney was a sensation with Manchester United and the England National team. He is the all-time leading scorer in England national team’s history with 53 goals, as well as their captain.

Rooney has played with Everton in the Premier League this season. He has 10 goals, but has reportedly been frustrated with the club. D.C. United will have to negotiate a separate contract with Rooney since the $16.2 million is regarded as the team’s “transfer fee.” In soccer, players can be sold to different clubs for money.

In his prime, Rooney led Manchester United to five Premier titles and a Champions League championship in 2008. He was a dynamic striker, scoring 183 goals in 13 seasons with Manchester United.

He is the only player to have recorded 200 goals and 100 assists in the Premier League.

Rooney’s best days are behind him, but he would be the latest European star to bring his talents stateside, following in the footsteps of David Beckham, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Past his prime or not, Rooney will bring much-needed star power to D.C. United — which will likely help boost ticket sales with their new $400 million stadium, Audi Field, set to open July 14.

D.C. United is 1-2-4 this season, and have played most of their matches on the road.

Rooney will leave Everton, one year into signing a three-year deal with the team. Everton is located in Liverpool, England — where Rooney grew up. He played for them for the first two years of his career before signing with Manchester United, and rejoined them this season.

But Rooney’s homecoming hasn’t gone smoothly. He was reportedly upset after being benched in a match against Liverpool. He hasn’t scored a goal since December.

Coming to the District allows Rooney to reset while playing, admittedly, against inferior competition.

According to Sky Sports, Rooney and D.C. United have been in discussions for the last seven weeks. The team reportedly approached him last summer about a deal, but Rooney signed with Everton instead.

D.C. United drew 17,904 fans on average last season, which ranked near the bottom of MLS.

Audi Field will hold 20,000 and be located in Navy Yard. United’s owners paid $250 million for the stadium, while the city contributed $150 million for land acquisition costs.

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