Mike England, one of the greatest defenders to ever wear a Sounders uniform, was on hand for this past weekend’s match against Vancouver Whitecaps FC at CenturyLink Field.
England played for the NASL Sounders from 1975-1979 following lengthy stints with Tottenham Hotspur and the Wales National Team. He is the only player in the history of the NASL to earn Best XI honors in four consecutive seasons. A member of Tottenham Hotspur’s Hall of Fame, England also managed the Wales National Team for eight years after his retirement.
Before Saturday’s match, England spoke with SoundersFC.com about how much things have changed since he played for Seattle in the 70s.
“I come here and I see the progress that’s being made since I was here in the 70s, and it’s quite incredible,” he said. “The standard that’s acquired is far greater now. When I first came here, there were very few American youngsters that understood the game completely.
“You had to play four Americans [back then], and quite honestly, we had to work very hard to make sure those four guys could live up to it. So the progress that has been made is quite incredible. It’s lovely to see. And the U.S. National Team…they’ve improved beyond belief.”
England, 73, currently lives in Wales but visits Seattle every summer, as he still has family in the area. The former Sounders captain believes that in the next decade or two, MLS will be among the top leagues in the world and the United States could boast one of the best National Teams.
“Why not? I’ve seen the progress that’s been made in the last 25-30 years,” England said. “If you go on like this for another 20 years, quite honestly, I reckon that it won’t be too long before the United States is right there. They’ve got good coaches and wonderful management.
“Everything’s being prepared right, so why not? Why can’t the USA win the World Cup? It would be something very, very special, and I don’t think it will be too long before it happens.”
In the game England attended on Saturday, Sounders FC fell 3-0 to the Whitecaps and missed out on a chance to clinch the 2015 Cascadia Cup. Seattle has now lost four straight matches and dropped to sixth place in the Western Conference after sitting atop the league standings earlier this summer.
“When I’m back home, people say to me, ‘Hey, the Seattle Sounders are doing great.’ But at the moment, they need some victories to make people sit up and take notice,” England said. “Everything’s in place – the stadium is magnificent – and so hopefully the players are going to get good results and get their just rewards."