ProSoccerTalk | NBC Sports

Getty Images

Rooney: MLS taking advantage of trade structure, hindering American players

Manchester United legend and former D.C. United Designated Player Wayne Rooney laments the way in which Major League Soccer owners take “advantage” of the league’s trade and transfer system.

MLS’ trade and transfer system, partly influenced by other top American sports leagues, has earned the league the reputation of being the world’s most complicated and complex soccer league in the past. Every season, like in the NBA, NFL, NHL, or MLB, dozens of players are traded within the league, with little to no transparency on the process.

Speaking to Perfect Soccer’s “Ask A Pro Show,” founded and hosted by MLS veteran Quincy Amarikwa, Rooney questioned the way the league’s owners are exploiting their players via the system and said that American players, specifically, are bearing the brunt of it all.

“I didn’t realize it before, but obviously when I got there (MLS), I seen it,” Rooney told Amarikwa, who was his teammate at D.C. United. “My first week, we had a player who, when he finished training, he got told he was getting transferred onto somewhere else. I was like, ‘Why? What’s going on here? Where is he going? What’s going on?’ So, it’s difficult. I spoke to 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?’ There’s no thought behind it in terms of this person might have a family, children…. a life here. They might get told, ‘You know what? Move on.'”

I know it works that way in basketball (NBA) and in NFL, but those players get paid millions and millions of pounds. So, they look forward to have to do that, where MLS players can’t. They probably get a small percentage of money which won’t even cover the bills, won’t even cover what they have to live on. It’s wrong for that to happen. 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. It might benefit [others]. For me, I went there for 18 months, Zlatan [Ibrahimovic] was there for two years. We benefited from getting good adaptation in the USA, scoring a few goals. But for the guys who you leave behind, which I’ve never gotten to speak to, it still sits wrong with me, deep inside of me, which I don’t think is the case with all foreign players who are coming in.

During his time in the league, Rooney, who left MLS in August 2019 with two years left in his contract, slammed the league for its travel arrangements, which provides its franchises a few charter options per season.

The 34-year-old ended his 18-month spell in the nation’s capital with 25 goals in 52 appearances, before returning to his native England to join Derby County as a player-coach.