CHICAGO -- As Major League Soccer's All-Stars prepare to take on European champions Real Madrid on Wednesday, the captain of the MLS team Bastian Schweinsteiger believes that the North American competition is a decade away from joining the level set by the world's elite leagues.
Schweinsteiger joined Chicago Fire from Manchester United on March 29, and since his debut on April 1, the Eastern Conference club has earned 37 points in 19 matches. And as the former Germany captain has seen the Fire rise from MLS cellar to second place in the East, he says that the still-maturing league can soon reach parity with those in Europe.
"MLS is a quite young league, but somehow it says to me in 10 years this league could be on the same level as, maybe like the Italian league or also very close to the Bundesliga," Schweinsteiger told ESPN FC in an exclusive interview. "There's a lot of potential and I hope the people know that."
While the league continues to grow in its 22nd season, and the standard of play and development continue to rise, there is a natural desire to measure MLS with its counterparts around the world. But Schweinsteiger notes that there is plenty that separates the best in Europe.
"There is difference between Europe and MLS, every league has a difference: Premier League, Bundesliga, La Liga, there is a difference," he said. "There is also a difference to MLS."
The 32-year-old reiterated the potential he sees in the U.S. and Canada's first division, but noted that changes needed to be made if the league is serious about recruiting Europe's best players en masse.
"The rules, first of all, are different than in Europe," Schweinsteiger said. "I'm sure players in Europe would like to play in MLS, but you maybe have to change some little things to make it more attractive for the players in Europe."
And while Schweinsteiger noted the rise to prominence of Germany's youth development -- a process that yielded Confederations Cup and European Under-21 Championship titles this summer -- he pointed to the growth of the American game, and MLS' need to keep its brightest young talents on this side of the Atlantic.
"The goal should be that in 10 years maybe that players like [Christian] Pulisic, they are not playing in Europe, that they are playing in MLS."