BY Art Thiel 10:49AM 08/29/2018

A great soccer career is done: Dempsey retires

Perhaps the greatest soccer player in U.S. history, Sounders star Clint Dempsey, conceding to age and injuries, said he is retiring after 15 seasons.

Clint Dempsey hit some of the highest highs in American soccer. / Dan Poss, Seattle Sounders FC

Beset by a suspension, injuries and age, and surrounded by a rejuvenated younger lineup, Sounders star Clint Dempsey, 35, announced Tuesday the end of one of the greatest careers in American soccer history. The three-time U.S. Soccer male athlete of the year, tied for the most goals by an American in international play, is retiring.

Dempsey, who will be honored at the Sounders’ next home match at 1 p.m. Saturday against Sporting Kansas City, had been coming off the bench most of the season.

“After a lot of thought, my family and I have decided that this is the right time for me to step away from the game,” Dempsey said in a club release. “I’d like to thank all of the teammates, coaches and support staff that I’ve worked with throughout my career. It has always been my dream to make it as a pro. I’m grateful to have been on this ride.

“I would like to thank all of the fans who have supported me throughout my career with the New England Revolution, Fulham, Tottenham, Seattle Sounders and the U.S. Men’s National Team. Y’all have always made me feel at home.”

The signing in 20134 of Dempsey, from Nacogdoches, Tex., from Tottenham was a huge development in Seattle and MLS, bringing back an American from Europe with prime years remaining. He responded with 47 goals, tying him with Fredy Montero for most in club history, and 100 starts in 115 games.

He helped the Sounders win their first Supporters’ Shield in 2014 and first MLS Cup in 2016, although he sat out the title game against Toronto, having been sidelined since August with an irregular heartbeat. He bounced back in 2017 with a club-high 15 goals and a return to the MLS Cup, earning comeback player of the year honors. This season, apparently dealing with a lower back injury, he had a goal and and an assist in 14 appearances.

“When Clint arrived in Seattle in 2013, in many ways it was a defining moment for our club,” said Sounders owner Adrian Hanauer. “His signing represented a new era in Major League Soccer, allowing our country’s most accomplished player to return home and drive the game to new heights domestically.

“Five years later, there’s no doubt in my mind that Clint helped us achieve that, both on the field surrounding our club’s success over the past several seasons, and in our community. In particular, I know many were inspired by Clint’s resolve in returning to the field last season from a major health issue, and that character is something I’ll remember most about him.”

Garth Lagerway said he was the best the U.S. has produced, period.

“As far as I’m concerned, Clint is the greatest player in the history of our country,” the Sounders GM said. “His mark on both our club and USMNT is indelible. His hard-earned reputation as a trailblazer for our nation in Europe helped pave the way for generations of future Americans abroad. His service to our game deserves special recognition.”

In an MLS release, commissioner Don Garber said, “Clint Dempsey has been one of the most impactful players in the history of the sport in our country.  From his early success with the New England Revolution to his achievements both as a top player in the English Premier League and for USMNT, Clint showed us that there are no limits for an American player.

“His decision to sign with the Sounders in 2013 in the prime of his career sent a message to the global soccer community that MLS was a league on the rise.”

The Sounders Sunday won their club-record seventh match in a row 1-0 over the Timbers in Portland, where they had not won since 2014. The fifth road win in a row pushed Seattle’s (11-9-5) unbeaten streak to 10 and moved it into sixth place in the Western Conference.


  • Husky73

    Probably Seattle’s least known superstar.

    • jafabian

      Not in soccer circles. When he first arrived in Seattle there were people who recognized him and quickly guessed why even though the Sounders and MLS tried to keep his presence quiet.

      • art thiel

        Dempsey spent his best years in England, and his rep beyond soccer didn’t grow because he never embraced his celebrity.

    • art thiel

      You mean, behind Wade LeBlanc?

  • Guy K. Browne

    Thanks for the memories Deuce… your creativity and swagger will be missed by the fans of Sounders FC and the USMNT.

    • art thiel

      He took no crap, and delivered plenty.

  • Kirkland

    Landon Donovan excepted, Dempsey was one of the most reliable strikers the US has produced. He scored as a young MLS player with New England, in the Premier League (17 goals for Fulham in 2011-12), and as a veteran MLS player with the Sounders. He also produced for the national team, which is not always a given for strikers. Only a few players in history have scored in three different World Cups, and Clint Dempsey is one of them.

    It was likely the Sounders were going to remove the Designated Player tag from him next season for age and salary cap reasons, but it’s good that Dempsey decided to make this decision on his own instead of it being forced upon him. All the best in his next stage.

    • art thiel

      Not sure it wasn’t forced on him. Dunno if he was causing trouble on the bench, but it’s a common disease among falling stars.

  • jafabian

    It was a blessing that the Sounders got a player of Dempsey’s caliber on the club. I’m not sure if they ever will again since they’ve rarely displayed the same kind of aggressiveness the Galaxy or Red Bull have shown in acquiring big name talent. Deuce reminds me of Larry Bird in that the spirit is there but the body can’t go on. His skill level is nothing short of (wait for it) legendary. At least in MLS circles. I don’t know if the Sounders will retire any player numbers, because Kasey Keller certainly deserves consideration, but Clint should kick off discussion. I’m going to miss him when the Sounders play the Timbers. For someone who did not grow up in the rivalry he quickly understood it, supported it and embraced the role of the villain among the Timber faithful. His hat trick against them was…well, you know. I was hoping he’d wait out the season before deciding on his plans or at least get one more goal but in any event I hope the best for him and his family.

    • art thiel

      Dempsey’s an edgy dude, exemplified by the tearing up of an official’s book, right in his face. The passion is commendable, the suspensions were not. Then again, great ones often set their own rules, a simultaneous source of admiration and aggravation.