Wales captain Gareth Bale says his jump to Major League Soccer gives him the best chance to play in the 2024 European Championship and maybe even the 2026 World Cup.
The long-time Real Madrid and Tottenham star winger was introduced Monday after his first workout as a member of Los Angeles FC, where he is signed through 2023 but hoping for a much longer stay.
“I have many years to come. I haven’t come here just to be here for six months, 12 months,” Bale said. “I’ve come here to try and be here as long as possible.”
Five-time UEFA Champions League winner Bale made it clear his MLS journey is not planned as a stopover on the way to retirement.
“I want to do as well as I can and I want to try and make my mark on this league, on this team,” Bale said. “I’m looking forward to the future. It’s not just a short thing.”
Bale, who turns 33 on Saturday, sees MLS as his best path to playing for Wales beyond this year’s Qatar World Cup, the nation’s first in 64 years.
His goal is playing in Euro 2024 and he has an eye on the 2026 World Cup that will be co-hosted by the United States with Mexico and Canada.
“It also gives me the best opportunity to keep going into the next Euros, maybe further, so my plan is to really work hard,” Bale said. “We’ve got a great plan going forward to get me up to speed and hopefully last as long as possible.
“Being here gives me the best possible chance to get to the Euros — and maybe even one more. That’s my goal. I feel like I’m here to play a big part.”
Bale praised MLS, saying the league is better than Europeans believe.
“The standard here is really increasing. It’s a lot better than the people in Europe really think,” Bale said. “It’s a league that’s really on the rise.”
Bale will face such challenges as time zones and a season that starts in February and runs to October plus playoffs.
“The transition is not, I guess, an easy one but I’m looking forward to the challenge,” Bale said. “Being in the middle of a season is a bit different but I feel like I’ve been keeping myself fit in Europe’s off-season and hopefully I can hit the ground running.”
‘Nice to get started’
Bale, who won 19 trophies in nine seasons with Real Madrid, hopes to haul in some hardware for LAFC after his first workouts with new teammates.
“My first training session today was amazing, the first step in hopefully a long journey,” Bale said.
“I had been eager to get going. I need to get some training under my belt to be ready. The players were really welcoming and hopefully I can help them all.”
Following in the footsteps of such stars as David Beckham and Pele, Bale wants to boost football with US sports fans.
“I want to try and help grow football in the US as well,” Bale said. “For players who have experienced a lot in their career, I think we have a responsibility to grow the game all around the world as well.”
He was also excited about Tuesday’s expected announcement that former England and Manchester United star Wayne Rooney will become the coach at DC United.
“It’s great for MLS and the sport in the US to get big names and people watching across the world is going to do great things for MLS,” Bale said. “Great to be a part of it.”