Fire's Bastian Schweinsteiger on MLS: 'This league has so much potential'
Chicago Fire midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger has highlighted the potential Major League Soccer possesses to be one of the world's top leagues, and the former Germany international says he wants to do his part to help the league reach that level someday.
Schweinsteiger, 32, joined the Fire on a free transfer from Manchester United in March and in an exclusive interview with ESPN FC on Friday, the former Bayern Munich man highlighted the league's promise.
"It's different to Europe. What I could feel in the six weeks I'm here is that this league has so much potential," Schweinsteiger said.
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"American leagues -- baseball, ice hockey, American football and basketball -- you are the best. But in a global sport like soccer, you're not."
MLS played its first season in 1996 and Schweinsteiger cited the league's relative youth as reason it still lags behind the Premier League, La Liga and Bundesliga on the global stage.
He said: "I think it has to do as well something with the tradition. As I said before, soccer is still young. But my wish is that soccer in the U.S. become on the same level like the Premier League, Spanish league or the Bundesliga.
"I think the potential is there and I would like to help that MLS comes to that level and that the best American players are not moving to Europe. They should stay here in America."
Schweinsteiger spent 15 years in the Bundesliga and Premier League, winning eight German league titles and a Champions League crown over his storied career.
Asked what he would change about MLS to bring it closer to Europe's elite, the 2014 World Cup winner said: "Make MLS more attractive.
"I don't know exactly how it works, but I think the owners of the clubs have ideas ... and I just can say that it has potential and you should use it. And I will give my impact to [Fire general manager] Nelson Rodriguez for example and our owner Andrew Hauptman of course to help but it's not a thing that happens from one year to another.
"You would probably also say 'It would be great in 10 years if the MLS is on the same level as like La Liga or Bundesliga or Premier League,' and the best players from America should play in MLS, and maybe some of the best players from Europe are maybe coming over to MLS because they think you have great cities.
"You have unbelievable atmosphere in the stadium and you love sports, and that's what you should use. It would be great."
Schweinsteiger added that he was taken out of context in a recent interview with Suddeutsche Zeitung when discussing the league, and praised the atmosphere at, and the play within, MLS games.
"The difference which I was talking about, and I think the guy from the German newspaper didn't understand it quite well, was here for example if you come to the games, it's a positive atmosphere in the stadium and the supporters are positive," he said.
"There is fireworks before the game, there is the national anthem before the game so that is a huge difference to how it is in Germany, like after the warmup you touch the ball 20 minutes later. So that is a little bit different. The league, for example, the MLS is quite a young league actually but it is developing."
He added: "I don't know if it's tactically weak. That's not true. But maybe it's kind of also the other sports which you have like ice hockey or basketball, when you win the ball it goes straight forward, and that's good. That's attractive.
"But I think soccer is a little bit different. Sometimes you have to control the game, you have to ... let's say the ball is the most important. So I love to have the ball. That's why I play soccer, and we have a great coach who has this kind of view, he sees everything and I just want to help as much as I can, on the pitch and off the pitch."
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