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Wayne Rooney set to return to England national team in friendly against USMNT

D.C. United captain set to play farewell international match to benefit The Wayne Rooney Foundation. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

WASHINGTON, D.C.–Former England national team captain Wayne Rooney is coming out of international retirement for a one-off match in the Nov. 15 friendly against the United States men’s national team. 

“I am truly humbled and hugely excited to play for England at Wembley again,” Rooney said in D.C. United’s press release. “Playing for England was the greatest honor of my career – so winning my 120th, and final, cap will be a particularly special moment for me. It’s fitting that the match will be against the USA and I hope that both sets of fans enjoy the game.”

The FA announced Sunday that the current all-time leading scorer for England will join the Three Lions for his 120th international appearance. Additionally, the match at Wembley Stadium will honor 33-year-old’s foundation and will be called The Wayne Rooney Foundation International. 

“The Wayne Rooney Foundation concentrates its efforts on improving the lives of disadvantaged children,” United’s official team press release said. “Due to serious illness, poverty or abuse, many of these young people simply do not get the opportunity to dream, let alone achieve their ambitions.”

The Rooney Foundation supported the NSPCC, Alder Hey Children’s Hospital and significant donations to the victims of the Manchester Arena bombing following an Ariana Grande concert in 2017.

Rooney officially retired from international play in August 2017. He scored 53 goals in 119 appearances–the most caps of any male outfield player. 

The England national team reignited the excitement surrounding the national team during a deep run in the 2018 World Cup. England finished fourth in the tournament with a young squad lead with manager Gareth Southgate.

“I have been hugely impressed with the progress of this young England team,” Rooney said. “I hope that whilst I am with the squad I can pass on some of my experience.”

Rooney’s most recent role as a veteran voice is with D.C. United. The England star joined United ahead of the opening of its new stadium, Audi Field. Coach Ben Olsen named Rooney captain of United after just three matches. He scored 12 goals and recorded 7 assists in 20 MLS matches.

Rooney’s arrival sparked an impressive turnaround. United spent the first half of the season on the road waiting for Audi Field to open. United sprinted through the final four months of the season with 15 home games. The Black-and-Red, led by Rooney, went from last place in the East Conference to hosting Columbus Crew SC in the first round of the playoffs.

“As a club, we are thrilled that Wayne will be honored by the English FA after such a historic and record-setting career for the Three Lions,” D.C. United Co-Chairman Steve Kaplan and Jason Levien said. “Wayne has done so much for this sport and we can’t wait to have him back next season so he can continue making a major impact on soccer in the DMV and around the world.”

United’s early exit from the MLS Playoffs came Thursday when they fell to Columbus after a penalty shootout. Goalkeeper Zack Steffen made two crucial saves in the shootout to help Crew SC advance, including stopping Rooney’s shot. The frontrunner for the No. 1 spot in net for the US most likely won’t get a call-up for this friendly. The second leg of the playoff series between Columbus and the New York Red Bulls is Sunday, Nov. 11. 

“This tribute to Wayne is a unique opportunity that is befitting of our nation’s record goal-scorer,” Southgate said. “We’re fortunate that circumstances have allowed us to formally acknowledge Wayne’s immense contribution to England in front of the Wembley crowd and against apt opponents given the recent impact he has made in MLS.”

There has been some controversy over Rooney’s call-up including, what money will be allocated to the Rooney Foundation and how long the former England captain will be on the pitch for the friendly. As for Rooney’s playing time, that will be completely up to the discretion of Southgate. 

“At the minute, I am not sure how much I am going to play, whether that is from the start or the last few minutes,” Rooney said. “Whatever he wants me to play, I am happy to do. That is Gareth Southgate’s call and I am sure he will let me know when we meet up.”

 

The article was updated with Rooney’s recent comments on if he expects to start for England.

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