Of the 143 players in the history of the FIFA World Cup to have scored in multiple tournaments, only 22 have done so in three or more. Clint Dempsey has a chance to add his name to that list and become the first American to do so in Brazil next month when the U.S. National Team opens play in Group G against Ghana on June 16.
For Dempsey, even appearing in a third consecutive World Cup is something he has been dreaming about for as long as he can remember.
"When I was a little kid, I used to pray about one day hopefully getting to the World Cup and getting the opportunity to score a goal," said Dempsey, who did so against Ghana in the 2006 World Cup.
In nine prior appearances in the World Cup, only two other Americans have scored in two tournaments – Landon Donovan and Brian McBride. Dempsey has the chance to be the first to do it in three consecutive tournaments, too, as Donovan's came in the 2002 and 2010 World Cups.
"That would be pretty special to do, but it's more important that the team does well," he said.
Dempsey grew up watching the free-flowing styles of Brazil, Argentina and Colombia and fell in love with the game of soccer. That helped shape his style of play while learning his craft in Nacogdoches and Dallas.
Now, 20 years after watching World Cup matches at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas in 1994, he is getting ready to play in Brazil for the first time, joining U.S. National Team camp on Wednesday at Stanford University.
The U.S. will face Azerbaijan, Turkey and Nigeria before departing for Brazil with its final 23-man roster. There, America will meet Ghana, Portugal and Germany in one of the toughest groups in this year's World Cup. In the 30-man camp players will be competing for roster spots and playing time as Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann makes the final adjustments ahead of first match. Even as captain, Dempsey is ready for a competitive camp.
"It's excitement but also you've got to be prepared. You have to work hard and make the most of these training sessions, of these games to prepare so that you can make it to the roster that's going to Brazil," Dempsey said. "You also want to fight for that starting 11 spot so you can be on the field and be playing in those games those are some of things that are going through your mind."
Dempsey is joined in the camp by Sounders FC teammates Brad Evans and DeAndre Yedlin. While Seattle will be thinned out by their absences, the trio will have their eyes on their team during their absences. They will miss a minimum of three matches with the lead-up to the team's departure for Brazil, but will miss five matches if they make the 23-man roster and as many as seven if they advance out of the Group Stage.
"I'll be focused at the World Cup but at the same time I'll be rooting the Sounders on and wishing them the best and rooting for them to get as many point as possible," Dempsey said.