America’s best soccer player, Clint Dempsey, is leaving the world’s richest soccer league and uprooting from London, so the Texas native can transfer to an MLS team in Seattle while he’s still in his prime — and it’s all about the cheddar.
Dempsey left MLS in 2006 at the age of 23 to play for Fulham in the English Premier League, where he set several American records for scoring goals during his five years at the London club. Clint refused to report for training camp in 2012 in an effort to join one of the EPL’s elite teams capable of qualifying for soccer’s highest club competition, the UEFA Champions League.
“I’m grateful for everything Fulham has done for me. Some of the best memories I have in soccer have been there.” Dempsey told Sports Illustrated last year. “But the fact remains that I want to play in Champions League. I want to play at the highest level possible.”
Dempsey’s tactics looked successful, as he was sold to Tottenham for $10 million last August, one of the EPL’s best teams that was also in London. But Dempsey’s disappointing first season at White Hart Lane ended with Tottenham barely failing to qualify for the Champions League, and the team’s player additions this summer made it clear playing time could be an issue for Clint in 2013.
Dempsey was said to be seeking another English team with a starting spot, but on Friday afternoon ESPN broke the shocking news that the 30-year-old attacking midfielder was being transferred to the Seattle Sounders of MLS, where Dempsey will be paid $32 million over four years — guaranteed.
Seattle’s MLS team is no mom and pop store. Portland Trailblazers owner Paul Allen, worth $15 billion, also owns the Seattle Seahawks and the Seattle Sounders, who both play at CenturyLink Field, and the Sounders average over 40,000 fans per game.
Dempsey’s $9 million transfer fee and $8 million salary both represent MLS records (although David Beckham earned much more including incentives), but the following comparison might offer a bit more perspective to U.S. sports fans.
Clint “Deuce” Dempsey will be paid significantly more to play soccer in the United States this season than Robert Griffith III, Luke Kuechly, Damian Lillard, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper will earn in salary — combined.
Those five athletes are some of brightest young stars in all of sports, and they’re also the reigning Rookies’ of the Year in America’s three most popular leagues: the NFL (Offensive: Griffith III $1.35 million ~ Defensive: Kuechly $390,000), the NBA (Lillard $3.2 million) and MLB (AL: Trout $480,000 ~ NL: Harper $750,000).
Typing the previous two paragraphs 10 years ago would’ve let somebody know you were getting ready to tell a joke — and Clint’s laughing alright, all the way to Paul Allen’s bank.
Many analysts and fans have championed Dempsey’s evolution into a better player than the MLS golden boy, Landon Donovan, as proof that America’s top players need to be playing at soccer’s “highest levels”. And while MLS has made enormous strides, no one would ever confuse it with Spain’s La Liga or the Bundesliga in Germany.
Perhaps as soon as later today, a boy who grew up inside a trailer parked in his grandparents’ backyard in the East Texas town of Nacogdoches, where he learned the game of futbol playing almost exclusively in Hispanic leagues with older players (because that was the highest level his mother Debbie could find within a three hour drive), is going to sit in front of a microphone and tell us why he came home.
Clint will talk about the abundant fishing holes in the state of Washington, he’ll tell us how much MLS has grown since he left, Deuce will reassure U.S. national team fans that this move won’t interfere with his preparation for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, and he’ll crack a wry smile as he skirts around the details of the $32 million he’s going to be paid by Paul Allen’s Sounders.
And then the boy from East Texas will tell us all — that it’s not about the cheddar.