Clint Dempsey has come home.
The Nacogdoches, Texas, native signed a four-year deal with the Seattle Sounders of Major League Soccer, this after playing six years in the English Premier League.
“It was just a matter of timing,” Dempsey said on The MoJo Show. “I’ve been in Europe for six-and-a-half, seven years, and I have three kids now. I knew ultimately I wanted to get back to the States and raise them because I wanted them to experience what it was like to grow up in the States.
“It was important for me to go to Europe and test myself against some of the best players. I was happy with some of the things I did there. But MLS came with the possibility of something happening, and Seattle was the team that was pushing the hardest to get me. And it’s really an offer that you couldn’t refuse and an opportunity to come back to the United States and continue the growth of the game. I’m excited to be back in the States and look forward to this season with Seattle.”
Dempsey’s four-year deal is worth $30 million. He said his decision-making process was fairly simple.
“No. 1, who wants you the most? Because you want to be somewhere where you’re valued and appreciated,” he said. “And secondly, what’s the place like?”
Seattle is a soccer-crazed city in which people fill bars to watch major games. In fact, 67,385 fans attended Dempsey’s home debut last week, a 1-0 win over rival Portland. It was the second-most attended game in MLS history, trailing only the first home game of the Los Angeles Galaxy in 1996, which drew 69,255.
“(Seattle is) right there with some of the best; the fans were amazing, the atmosphere was great and, most important, we were able to get the win,” Dempsey said. “You get that European atmosphere with (also) living in the States. I’m happy with the decisions that I’ve made. I’ve been here three weeks and I’m loving it.”
Dempsey believes soccer will only get bigger in the United States, especially as more and more young people grow up playing the game. American kids often throw a baseball or football in a backyard, but Dempsey wants them to kick a soccer ball back and forth, too.
“I think it’s a generational thing,” he said. “I think it’s just going to continue to grow and grow. You see more people into it because they grew up with it. It’s a really diverse game. You don’t need much to play it. All you need is a ball and some grass, and you can go out there and enjoy the game. It’s just going to continue to grow. It’s just a matter of time. But I’m looking forward to helping the continued growth of the game in the States because I know what it’s like to grow up in a small town in Texas and (have) the game you’re playing not really being (valued much).”
Dempsey, of course, is also a member of the U.S. national team, which is a virtual lock to qualify for the World Cup in Brazil next summer. The U.S. has won 12 straight matches – thanks in large part to head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who excelled at the highest levels as a player.
“It’s important to have a manger that’s played at the highest level and knows what it’s like and has that experience and can pass it down to his players,” Dempsey said. “We’re playing with confidence, and when you’re playing with confidence, I think that’s when you’re playing your best ball.”