Clint Dempsey’s Return to the US: Good or Bad for American Soccer?

Yesterday, my favorite European club Tottenham Hotspur (who I covered here) announced that American striker/midfielder Clint Dempsey would be transfered to Seattle Sounders of MLS. Deuce (BTW best nickname in sports?) spent only one year in North London, after moving there from Fulham last summer. Dempsey never seemed like the first choice in Andre Villas Boas’ Spurs squad, so in order to become the star man again like he was at Fulham, he decided to take his talents to the Pacific Northwest. And as much as I love MLS, I must say that this move is a step back for Dempsey.

Last year, when Dempsey demanded to leave Fulham, he said that he wanted to move to a Champions League club. He was certainly good enough to do so: in the 2011-2012 season, Dempsey scored 23 goals for the West London side, smashing American scoring records in the process. However, no English team in the Champions League wanted him that badly, so Deuce settled on a move to Spurs after they beat Liverpool to the chase. Unfortunately, he couldn’t fire Spurs into the Champions League, and his playing time decreased as the season went along. Now, after Spurs signed Roberto Soldado and Nacer Chadli, it seemed as if Deuce was being frozen out at White Hart Lane. So Dempsey decided to return home to the United States.

But while this was a great move for MLS, Dempsey’s transfer may hurt the American soccer community at large. Dempsey was by far the best-known American playing in Europe. Many people will see this move as Dempsey admitting he isn’t good enough to cut it for a top European team.

Another important factor when assessing the transfer is the US National Team. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann can’t be happy that his best player has left a higher quality league to move back home. However, if Dempsey wasn’t going to be a sure starter with Spurs, then it could turn out to be a good idea that Dempsey will get more minutes. Clint immediately turns into one of the 5 best players in MLS. Before a World Cup, Klinsmann needs all of his key players getting starters’ minutes no matter where they are playing, from Michael Bradley at Roma to Dempsey in Seattle.

And, finally, this move is huge for MLS. They were able to bring back a player still in his prime, one adored across the country. MLS is still establishing itself in the global soccer ecosystem. It can only help the league’s reputation that teams are bringing in established players. So while, this may seem as a bad move personally for Deuce (although not financially: he will receive $8 million a year in Seattle), overall this is a good move for American soccer.

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