WASHINGTON — The deal is done. The stadium is next.
D.C. United announced Thursday that international soccer superstar Wayne Rooney has signed with the team on a permanent transfer.
He will make his debut with the team when the team’s new home, Audi Field, opens July 14.
Rooney arrived at Dulles International Airport around 2 p.m. Thursday.
— Wayne Rooney (@WayneRooney) June 28, 2018
The international player-transfer window officially opens July 10, and Rooney will be eligible to play in a game for United after that. Rooney is permitted to train with United, which means he will be on the team sheet for the opening game at Audi Field.
“This is a seminal moment for our fans and organization. Wayne is a global soccer icon and his presence at D.C. United will elevate our product on the pitch and soccer as a whole in our city and in this country,” Jason Levien, D.C. United’s managing general partner and CEO said in a release. “Wayne has thrived when competing at the most elite levels of soccer and we’re thrilled to have his leadership as we enter this new era at Audi Field.”
Rooney’s move to D.C. United had been the subject of speculation for the last two months. Sources tell WTOP that United first had an interest in Rooney in the summer of 2017 when he was leaving Manchester United, but he instead selected to return to his boyhood club Everton.
Rooney said in a statement that he visited the club earlier this summer and was impressed with the club and the new Audi Field.
“It is fantastic to be joining D.C. United at such an exciting time in the club’s history with the new stadium opening in just a few weeks,” Rooney said. “Moving to America and MLS fulfills another career ambition for me. I have the hunger to be a success here and will give D.C. 100 percent – as I have always done for every team I have ever played for.”
Rooney comes to the United States after an amazing career in England for club and country. He is the all-time goal scorer for both England and Manchester United and has earned championship trophies in the Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup, UEFA Champions league, UEFA Europa League and FIFA Club World Cup.
“He is coming here to win,” said D.C. United head coach Ben Olsen. “That was one of the first things that stood out when I first talked to him. He is not coming here to wind down his career, but to help us become a team that will contend for a title.”
Like David Beckham did in 2007, Rooney is joining Major League Soccer at the age of 32. Beckham played five seasons with LA Galaxy and won two MLS Cups. Rooney, who will turn 33 in October, is clearly not in his prime but played 41 games last season with Everton and still has the skill and soccer intelligence to compete at the highest level.
At the age of 9, Rooney joined Everton’s youth ranks and played two seasons with the first team before moving to Manchester United at the age of 18. Rooney’s switch to Manchester United came after he burst onto the international scene with a successful summer with England at Euro 2004.
With 53 goals in 119 international appearances, Rooney surpassed another Manchester United great, Sir Bobby Charlton, as England’s all-time leading goal scorer. Four times Rooney was named England player of the year, and he competed at the 2006, 2010 and 2014 World Cups.
Playing a variety of attacking roles with Manchester United, Rooney scored 253 goals in all competitions. In the Premier League, Rooney scored 183 goals for Manchester United, the most by a player for a single club. He also ranks third all-time in Premier League assists, with 103, and was part of 16 trophies with Manchester United.
“Wayne is undoubtedly one of the best players in Premier League history and his goal scoring record for club and country speaks for itself,” Dave Kasper, United general manager and VP of soccer operations said in a statement. “He is a world-class player and he elevates those around him, both through his work-ethic and winning mentality. We are beyond excited to add someone of Rooney’s caliber and we are thrilled to welcome him to D.C.”
Rooney joins a D.C. United side that sits at the bottom of MLS’s Eastern Conference, but that played 10 of its first 12 games on the road. United has also played fewer games overall than other MLS teams, because its schedule was adjusted to account for the opening of Audi Field.