After spending several seasons with Fulham of the English Premier League, America’s best soccer player was ready for a change.
Clint Dempsey was pursued by different clubs, mostly from the EPL and some from other international leagues. He finally made his decision Friday.
According to Yahoo, Dempsey signed with Tottenham of the EPL for $22 million+ for 3 years.
MLS teams were never really in the picture to sign Dempsey. Apparently the money he was asking was too much for any MLS team.
This is half the problem for MLS right now.
The financial divide between what MLS can afford to pay important players who can help grow the game stateside and what is necessary to sign them is telling.
At this point in the lifetime of MLS, it is the right time for a player like Clint Dempsey to be scoring goals regularly in the States for his MLS club. The investment is necessary to maintain interest for sports fans and keep the upward trending momentum of soccer in the sports media going.
It’s either be able to sign more high-profile players or bring on more teams–the other half of the problem.
Nineteen teams is not going to suffice for television ratings purposes.
Television ratings success is the absolute key for getting over the hump and becoming more mainstream and more profitable. It will either take a group of more awesome players or bringing together many more teams to fill in areas of the U.S. without a rooting interest.
Dempsey couldn’t afford to give MLS a discount now because he’s in his prime. But MLS teams should have jumped at the chance to sign him anyway. Dempsey is a true goal-scorer, and he’s feisty. He could rally the league.
He also has an interesting back story. Some of his grit and determination come from his humble upbringing and the death of his sister.
Now, instead of being the new face of MLS, Dempsey will add on to his American records in the EPL.
The status quo for MLS remains intact. No major changes appear on the horizon. The league has done well to get to this point, but what’s next? Is it a major signing of a player or another team to add?
And what about Jozy Altidore? The American goal-scorers must be a priority for MLS.
It can still work out for Dempsey in MLS though.
After his contract with Tottenham ends in 3 years, he may decide it’s the right time to take a little less money for his talents and make it back to the fields of MLS (he played for New England very early in his career, before he was a star player).
Howard Alperin is Managing Editor of AmericanizeSoccer.com