- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 19, 2020

English soccer star Wayne Rooney criticized Major League Soccer, including his former club, D.C. United, for “taking advantage” of players through the trade system common in other U.S. sports leagues.

“I didn’t realize it before, but obviously when I got there, I seen it,” Rooney said on a podcast hosted by former D.C. United teammate Quincy Amarikwa. “My first week, we had a player who, when he finished training, he got told he was getting transferred onto somewhere else.”

Rooney was surprised, saying he felt trades are more suited for leagues like the NFL and NBA, where players earn more money, than in MLS.

“I was like, ‘Why? What’s going on here? Where is he going? What’s going on?’” Rooney said. “I spoke to (D.C. United captain) Steve (Birnbaum) a lot. I was like, ‘Can he do that? Is it that easy to do? Is it that easy to actually move someone on?’

“I know it works that way in basketball and in the NFL, but those players get paid millions and millions of pounds. So, they can afford to actually do that, but MLS players can’t.”

In European soccer, players are transferred or loaned to other teams in exchange for a monetary fee, and player-for-player swaps are less common. 

Rooney — who made $3.5 million in 2019 as one of D.C. United’s “designated players,” a tag specific to MLS — said last fall that he feels the average American soccer player is underpaid. He doubled down on that position on the podcast.

“I think MLS needs to really look at that because, from seeing it, a lot of them owners are taking advantage of the league [structure], which is affecting American players,” Rooney said.

Rooney left D.C. United after a season and a half to take a player-coach role at Derby County, a second-tier team in his native England.

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