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Clint Dempsey announces retirement from professional soccer

SEATTLE, WASH. – Seattle Sounders FC forward Clint Dempsey today announced his retirement from professional soccer. The 35-year-old concludes a historic 15-year career that saw him play for the New England Revolution, Fulham FC, Tottenham Hotspur and Sounders FC, in addition to the U.S. Men’s National Team. The former United States captain was named the U.S. Soccer Male Athlete of the Year three times and is tied for the most goals scored by an American in international play. Dempsey departs Seattle a champion, helping the club to the 2014 Supporters’ Shield and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, 2016 MLS Cup and 2017 Western Conference title.

A seven-year veteran of the English Premier League, Dempsey holds the record for most goals by an American in the Premiership and ranked fourth in voting for the 2011-2012 Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year after finishing tied for fourth in the Premier League with 17 goals for Fulham. He is also the only American to score in three consecutive FIFA World Cups (2006, 2010, 2014) and is currently tied for the USMNT all-time record with 57 career international goals. On top of his accomplishments in Europe and with the National Team, Dempsey finishes his MLS career with 79 goals and 45 assists in 209 appearances (including postseason play).

“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,” said Dempsey. “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, and it is something that I will always remember.”

After joining Sounders FC in August of 2013, Dempsey started 100 of 115 appearances in regular-season play and scored 47 goals – tied with Fredy Montero for the club record in less matches played – to go along with 28 assists (his 57 goals across all competitions trail only Montero’s 60). An integral member of Seattle’s 2014 Supporters’ Shield-winning campaign, Dempsey recorded 15 goals and 10 assists that season, partnering with Obafemi Martins up front to lead Sounders FC to a league-record 20 wins. Dempsey also helped Seattle secure the 2014 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup championship, scoring the match-winning extra-time goal in the 101st minute of the final against Philadelphia. The next season, he tallied 10 goals and 10 assists in 2015, becoming the only MLS player to record double-digit goals and assists in each of those two seasons. He is also the only Sounders FC player to record multiple hat-tricks, including one in a thrilling come-from-behind 4-4 draw at archrival Portland Timbers on April 5, 2014. A consistent performer in derby matches, Dempsey has nine goals in 12 career regular-season appearances against Portland, his most against any MLS opponent. He also retires as Sounders FC’s all-time leader with six goals in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. 

“When Clint arrived in Seattle in 2013, in many ways it was a defining moment for our club,” said Sounders FC 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. Clint is a fighter, and he’ll always be a Sounder. We thank him for all he’s done for our sport.”

After helping get Seattle’s 2016 season back on track following a difficult first half of the campaign, Dempsey was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat in August of that season, sidelining him for Seattle's run to MLS Cup and putting his professional future in question. Dempsey persevered, returning to action with Sounders FC in the 2017 preseason. He went on to lead the Rave Green with 15 goals to go along with five assists in 33 appearances (29 starts) in his final full pro season (including postseason play), earning 2017 MLS Comeback Player of the Year honors. After recording 12 tallies in the regular season, Dempsey added three more goals in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs as the club returned to MLS Cup for the second consecutive season. He recorded one goal and one assist in 14 appearances this season before retiring. Since his arrival in 2013, Dempsey delivered titles for the Rave Green, helping the club to the 2014 Supporters’ Shield and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, 2016 MLS Cup and 2017 Western Conference title.

“As far as I’m concerned, Clint Dempsey is the greatest player in the history of our country,” said Sounders FC General Manager & President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey. “His mark on both our club and the United States Men’s National Team is indelible, and his hard-earned reputation as a trailblazer for our nation in Europe helped pave the way for generations of future of Americans abroad. His service to our game deserves special recognition, and we know our fans will give him that prior to Saturday’s match at CenturyLink Field.”

At the international level, Dempsey has scored 57 goals for the USMNT, tied with Landon Donovan for the most in U.S. history (in 16 fewer appearances), while his 141 international caps rank third all-time in USMNT history, while his 21 assists are third. He made his first international appearance on November 17, 2004 versus Jamaica, then scored his first goal on May 28, 2005 against England. Dempsey made his first FIFA World Cup appearance in the 2006 tournament in Germany, where he made two appearances and scored a goal against Ghana in the Group Stage. He scored the match-tying goal against England in the USMNT’s opening contest of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, then tallied two in the 2014 tournament in Brazil, including the fastest goal in American World Cup history, and the fifth-fastest all-time in World Cup history, with a goal 30 seconds into the match against Ghana. In the USMNT’s runner-up finish at the 2009 Confederations Cup, Dempsey led the American squad with three goals, earning him the tournament’s Bronze Ball. His goals at that Confederations Cup were memorable, including a strike in a 2-0 semifinal win over Spain and the second goal in a 3-2 loss to Brazil in the final. He led the U.S. to CONCACAF Gold Cup titles in 2005, 2007 and 2017 (as well as a runner-up finish in 2011), and is currently tied for the all-time U.S. lead with 14 goals in FIFA World Cup Qualifying. 

“It’s been an honor to coach Clint Dempsey for the past five years,” said Sounders FC Head Coach Brian Schmetzer. “As a soccer fan, I admired his game and his career for years before he came to Seattle, and to coach a player with his quality is any manager’s wish. I’m very happy that he decided to share his talents with the Sounders community and I wish him luck in the next chapter of his life.”

Dempsey first moved to the Premier League in 2007, joining Fulham after playing his first three professional seasons in MLS with the New England Revolution. In six years with Fulham, he scored 60 goals in 220 appearances, including a career-high 17 goals in the 2011-2012 Premier League season – a Premier League record for a Fulham player – and 12 tallies in the 2010-2011 campaign. He made an early impact with the Cottagers, scoring his first goal for the club on May 5, 2007 in a 1-0 win over Liverpool that saved Fulham from relegation to the second division, a strike that was named Fulham Goal of the Year. 10 of Dempsey’s goals with Fulham came outside of EPL action, including five in FA Cup play, one in English League Cup action and four in the Europa League. Dempsey notably scored the final strike in a 4-1 win over Juventus in the second leg of a Round of 16 matchup in the 2009-10 Europa League, clinching advancement for Fulham after a 3-1 loss in the first leg. He also became the first American to record a Premier League hat-trick in a 5-2 win against Newcastle United on January 21, 2012, then became the first American to appear in a major European championship when he appeared as a substitute for Fulham in the Europa League final against Atlético Madrid on May 12, 2010. A favorite of the Fulham supporters, Dempsey was twice named the club’s Player of the Year (2010-2011, 2011-2012). His 50 goals for the club in English Premier League play are the most all-time by a Fulham player.

In his only season with Tottenham Hotspur in 2012-2013, Dempsey recorded 12 goals in 43 appearances across all competitions, including three strikes in two FA Cup appearances and another two tallies in Europa League action. In Premier League play, Dempsey recorded seven goals and six assists, including the winner for Spurs against Manchester United at Old Trafford on September 29, 2012. On April 21, 2013, Dempsey led a comeback against Manchester City by scoring the first of Spurs’ three goals in the final 15 minutes en route to a 3-1 win.

“Very few players have meant as much to the growth of soccer in this country as Clint Dempsey. On top of his exploits and accomplishments as a soccer player, his unique style and attitude transcended the game and made him a fan favorite all over the world,” said Sounders FC Vice President of Soccer & Sporting Director Chris Henderson. “From what he accomplished in MLS, England and with the National Team, he will always be remembered as a pioneer of American soccer. I’d like to thank Clint for everything he’s done for our sport, and wish him and his family the best going forward.”

The 2004 MLS Rookie of the Year and two-time Best XI player prior to going to England, Dempsey began his career in MLS with the New England Revolution in 2004. In three seasons with New England, Dempsey scored 25 goals and recorded 14 assists in 71 appearances. A native of Nacogdoches, Texas, Dempsey attended Furman University in South Carolina, where he scored 17 goals and added 19 assists in 62 games for the Paladins.

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